Monday, March 6, 2017
Anne Tyler, A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD
I enjoyed it, but it was an unusual book. There's very little by way of a plot arc; it represents a tangled web of four generations of a family; there are no main characters, really, and not much in the way of character change or development. To some extent, what develops is the sense (for the reader) that every character in this story has a different, competing, and at times contradictory story about the family and events. Sometimes the tales are wildly at odds: the grandmother Linnie Mae constructed a Romeo-and-Juliet narrative in which at age 13, she was kept from her (26-year-old) boyfriend for five years and then, when she was 18, followed him to Baltimore, having saved her money and believing that he has carried a torch for her all that time; but when she calls him from the bus station, he gropes for a memory of her, nearly refuses to pick her up, and doesn't want her to stay. So to some extent, this is a book about the narratives individuals construct in their heads about their web of family, in order to preserve their selves, to protect their personal Truths (or Lies). The one character who seems to change is Denny, but his change is not demonstrated throughout and the sign of it is tucked in on the fourth page from the end. However, Tyler is a genius at representing the tiny interactions between characters and describing characters: "He was a brash and hasty man in all other areas of life, a man who coasted through stop signs without so much as a toe on the brake, a man who bolted his food and guzzled his drinks and ordered a stammering child to 'come on, spit it out,' but when it came to constructing a house he had all the patience in the world."