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Michele Jacobsen

Just an essay kind of girl living in a TL;DR world.

The quintessential American novel

A Spool of Blue Thread: A novel - Anne Tyler

Each month, I allow myself to purchase one current "best selling" or "most talked about" book. A book-of-the-moment, if you will. Sometimes I read them right away, other times if I think the hype has just gotten too big, I'll set them aside for later because nothing kills a book for me quicker than too much hype (I'm bound to be disappointed). But just enough people we're talking about Anne Tyler's new book A Spool of New Thread to catch my attention and it wasn't too much attention....perfect. Add to this the not insignificant fact that - gasp - I had not yet read a Tyler novel. What a gap in my literary career.


I chose the audio version out of sheer convenience (an Audible credit was begging to be used and it was a nice narration change to hear a good strong American accent - a rarity these days). Tyler's story about three generations - although not necessarily told in a linear fashion - of an American family in Baltimore had me hooked from the very first paragraph and held me riveted throughout.


The Whitshanks are nothing remarkable from the outside. They are your standard American family. The family dynamics within are nothing remarkable either. But it's Tyler's telling of the story as she reveals layers of each generation that proves how little we all know about our own nearest and dearest that is so remarkable. We all think we know everything about our closest family members...Tyler shows us that no, really we do not. She does so in such an understated, fact-of-the-matter way that I simply fell in love with her right then and there. And promptly went and purchased every other book she has ever written (my huge Amazon box full of them arrived yesterday). I now have little trouble imagining how she won her Pulitzer.


I didn't necessarily fall in love with the Whitshank family, but I don't think that was Tyler's intention. I enjoyed my time with them and I enjoyed what Tyler revealed to me about them. I listed to the story every spare moment I had (something I don't normally do with audiobooks). What I walked away thinking after the novel was finished was that this was truly an American story, without any false notes or patriotism thrown in...nothing so obvious like that. It was straightforward and deft in the telling. There was nothing I did not like. Highly recommended.