It's been a whirlwind in Mars since I finished this book. I had never read an Anne Tyler book, so that when it came to my turn to host the Gables Book Club, I decided on A Spool of Blue Thread. It had gotten decent reviews and a nomination for the Man Booker Prize, and so I figured, why not?
From what I understand from other book club members, this novel follows the Tyler typical lines. It is very strong on character development and short on plot and action. It is the saga of a Baltimore family, the Whitshanks, who seem very typical in that they have their tragedies, their joys, and, most importantly to this book, their secrets. The opening paragraph is a shocker, Danny, the fourth child, calls home one night to inform his parents that he is gay. He has never been one to really put down roots and his parents, Red and Abby, rarely know where he is at any given time. It certainly draws there reader into thinking that this will be the crux of the novel.
Abby is a retired social worker, married to "Red"cliffe who owns Whitshank Construction Company. The company has been passed down through the generations, but its future may be a bit bleak if the sons don't step up and embrace working there. Their children are Mandy, Jeannie, Denny, and their "adopted" son Stem.
Told through flashbacks and forward leaps, the reader eventually gets the picture of the entire family and their dynamics. It is a story that features class envy, from the very beginning when Junior tricks the current owner of the Bouton Road house into selling it because of the insecurity of the place to the marriage of Red to Abby and his social climbing sister Merrick to Trey Barrister. There are all sorts of sub-stories, most interestingly that of Stem's being taken in by the Whitshanks and the mystery surrounding his birth mother. It very much mirrors the situation that Denny has with his daughter, Susan. The threads are boundless and it's not until very near the end of the book that the reader learns the significance of the title.
As varied as the situations are, the house remains steadfastly a major player in the novel and one of the most interesting. It was agreed that the book was good, but not spectacular. I am not sure it has spurred me on to read more of Tyler's works or not, considering the plethora of really good books out there.