Author: Anne Tyler
Title: A Spool of Blue Thread
You can trust Anne Tyler to spin stories about people who are commonplace and unremarkable. If you pass them on the streets you will probably not give them a second look. Yet such a novel makes you pause and think about the wealth of details that make up each life. An old person has decades of stories behind him. If you had time to ask, you will find out that every person has some interesting bits of story to relate.
When we meet Abby, she is worried about her son Denny. He has just called and told his father that he is gay. Her husband, Red Whitshank, is typically taciturn about it. We learn later that Denny has long been a source of trouble for his family and likely to continue being so. Every time I read a book by Anne Tyler I picture the characters living in a spacious leaf lined house by a quiet road. Here the house is a prominent living thing which grew to life under the hands of Junior Whitshank who built it for others but fell so in love with it that he bought it off the owners.
The wide porch with a swing has seen many pattering feet, this is where Abby sat and swung slowly as she fell in love with Red. We hear stories of three generations and leave when the house is put up for sale after a death. Abby is the centerpiece of the book and she binds the past present and the future together. All the characters are as flawed as ordinary people are and beg to be loved as they are.
Despite being a story of several generations it does not have the sweep of Searching for Caleb. It remains a story of a family going about their daily lives. There is drama here, it is not highlighted and thrown in our face, as is the case with many books that seek to thrill its readers. It is merely stated and we are left to smile at it. Tyler sketches the characters deftly and fills in the color with the times they live in. Junior Whitshank lived in depression and found it difficult to eat properly or provide for his wife. Abby and Red live comfortably with Red's construction business that he inherited from his father. His son Stem has carried on the tradition and managing the firm. His other son Denny is footloose and cannot hold down a career.
The book reminded me why I love Anne Tyler so much. There are readers who may find her middle class tales of ordinary people repetitive and humdrum. What I see is a town full of people who are same but different. They follow different careers and have different stories. It makes her world so familiar and comfortable for me.