I’ve been away from blogging for about a week. I’ve wanted to write, and my head is full of very important, poignant thoughts I wanted to share with you all. But I’ve written many of them down, so don’t worry, I’ll get to them.
This last week and a half was VERY busy in our household. Sickness notwithstanding (me, with this soul-sucking Coldbola, the girls with various sniffles and coughs, probably from me), there was the Superbowl (blah, neither team was one that I like that much. but it was a good game), work, parent/teacher conferences, snow days, bookfairs (for which I volunteer), and various and sundry other things that kept the thoughts off the interwebs and stuck in my brain.
Plus, I read a bunch, to get ahead of some upcoming releases and to catch up on some that I didn’t read pre-release. I should have enough new books for this week, which is good and bad. I like to get my thoughts down right away, but some books I don’t necessarily love right off the bat kind of marinate in my brain. I find if a book, its plots, subtleties, and characters, stays with me, I probably need to give it another thought. Often those are the books that I NEED to read, the characters that I should be keeping in touch with, because they have something to say that is important.
The last few days (week and a half, about), I finished:
- Authority: (The Southern Reach Trilogy Book 2) by Jeff VanderMeer
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
- The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle Book 2) by Maggie Stiefvater
- A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
I pretty much liked them all. As a rule (that I may break, depending on the series), I don’t review a series until I’m done with it, especially if the series is complete OR is going to be completed soon. Sometimes, though, I can’t wait to review a book, and need to tell you to read it, because you need to be in love with a series.
And now you know where I am. By the end of February, I hope to have finished both The Southern Reach Trilogy and The Raven Cycle, and can give you a review on those. I’m going to Arizona next week, and get to read and write on a beautiful, sunshine-y patio, so the hope is a lot of both reading and writing.
And now, onto my review of A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.
I’ve always liked Anne Tyler. She can tell a good story, cutting through the sentimental stuff and just tell us what’s up. She gets through to the heart and soul of a person, past the bleached white teeth and the waxed eyebrows, into the burps and farts that are the reality of life.
A Spool of Blue Thread is true to form. Tyler cuts through it all, telling the most American of stories, of three generations of the Whitshanks.
“There was nothing remarkable about the Whitshanks. None of them was famous. None of them could claim exceptional intelligence. And in looks, there were no more than average…But like most families, they imagined they were special.”
And this says it all.
The family’s unremarkability makes them remarkable. They have ups and downs, highs and lows, secrets and misconceptions, that make a family. Right away we’re told that there are two stories that have defined the family: one, of Junior Whitshank, the grandfather we only meet after his death, the other of Merrick, his daughter who married up but is very unhappy.
Those stories may be the ones that are passed down, but we learn that they are not truths. There are lies and secrets that went into creating those stories, and we learn all about what went into those stories that created a family.
Even the side stories are not fully truths, and they get fleshed out in this book. We hear about how aging parents Abby and Red fell in love, but, in a retrospective flash, the reader gets the real story about what made Abby finally notice Red in a romantic light.
It’s a story of quiet perseverance, and how that usually wins over loud ostentation. It’s a story of hopes dashed and dreams reached. It’s a story of love and disappointment, of second chances and eternal love.
In other words, it’s the story of an American family. And it’s beautiful.