“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The whole family—their two daughters and two sons, their grandchildren, even their faithful old dog—is on the porch, listening contentedly as Abby tells the tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different too: Abby and Red are growing older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them, and the fate of the house so lovingly built by Red’s father. Brimming with the luminous insight, humor, and compassion that are Anne Tyler’s hallmarks, this capacious novel takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family.
One part of me wants to call the novel lovely, the other-ordinary. A Spool of Blue Tread is a quiet, slow paced family drama. It portrays ordinary life, ordinary people, with their ordinary mishaps, disillusionment and struggles, yet it puts a spell on the reader with its artistic manner of conveying the mundane into the magical. It succeeds in keeping you occupied and forcefully puts you on standby mode to recollect, but mostly makes you smile with understanding and content.
Anne Tyler brought humanity to the readers in a world where there is not much humanity left. You don’t get to meet families like this any more… Unless you are Eastern European like I am… Western Families are different, they lack a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain homely touch, that you can see in Eastern Europe.
Tyler created characters that are insufferable, yet likeable – complex, annoying, selfish, stubborn, yet extremely loveable and accessible. Weird in the best possible way and LOUD! Oh my God – loud in the sense of radiant, vibrant, real… full of life. After saying this, I think you can better understand why I feel eager to call her novel ordinary. It is Extraordinary in its Ordinariness. Simple. Fulfilled. Enough. Humane.
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