A Spool Of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Twelve members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies received from those unable to attend.  Brenda opened the meeting’s discussion by asking members what they had thought of this particular book.  Several initially admitted that they struggled to keep reading the book, finding the story a bit of a “nothing one” with no real substance to it. It was more a “no beginning; no end; just a middle” one, with a couple of saying they actually sadly gave up on it too.

It was felt the story could have maybe been called Abby’s story as it was centered mainly around her.  The story concerned the four generations of the Whitshank family and the Baltimore house where it all started in the 1920s with Junior and Linnie-May the parents of a daughter Merrick and a son Red married to Abby (a social worker who has a soft heart for the needy and writes poetry) and their rather dysfunctional family, their children and offspring.  Several Members disliked the backwards and forwards style in the storytelling finding it confusing at times and did not help with the flow and holding their attention.  Interestingly members differed in their opinion as to whether the book was that well written with several saying they would have liked to have heard more about Linnie-May story.  It was agreed that although the book definitely wasn’t a page turner, everyone wanted to find out what happened next or indeed if anything was going to happen!!

The characters most discussed were Red and Abby’s children, their children: Amanda, the eldest married to Hugh; Jeannie also married to a Hugh (you can see how this did not help alleviate any boredom in the story – did the author have no other names in her address book?!); Denny, who was also our most talked about character after Abby, who had multi-relationships and many secrets – none of which were resolved in the book or even really written about – and was a constant source of worry to the whole family. A sort of stepson, Stem, married to Nora, (Stem?? actually come to think about it, she might well have had a problem with names!!) who was taken in by Abby when his father – an employee at Red’s Construction Company – died and had no-one to care for him as his mother had run off with another man when Stem was a baby.  Denny had felt resentful of Stem throughout his childhood and still had problems with this as he felt he was his parents’ favourite. There were six grandchildren and Denny had a child who turned out not to be his (?) and who did not really feature much in the storyline.  It was “mentioned” that Junior and Linnie-May died when their car gets stuck and they are hit by a freight train! During the latter part of the story Abby also had been found wandering the street in her nightgown which had brought home to the family the need for action leading Stem, his wife and children to move back to the house to look after her and the house and of course Abby’s death was also sudden when she and her dog, Brenda are hit by a car.  Eventually Red has to move into an apartment as the house was to be sold. A comment was made that all our discussion had not been so much about the story but totally about the characters so she succeeded in this aspect.

Phew!! I think that just about sums the book up BUT in saying that, members generally did not say they disliked the book, although maybe watching paint dry might have been an option at times, the book was found to be on the whole quite monotous, boring, forgettable (we all had a problem remembering most of it and it definitely did not hold our attention). It was a description of the antics and emotions of a dysfunctional family.  Just a disappointing end with nothing tied up or even resolved and definitely not a page turner for most Members.

So what to do with our copies ?  Consensus of opinion CHARITY SHOP  it may well be someone else’s bag – let us hope they do not pick it up thinking it is a Mills & Boon then!!!!  A thumbs down for us this time.