A Spool of Blue Thread Discussion Guide: Home
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Articles, Interviews, and Reviews
- Man Booker Prize, National Book Awards finalists revealedCNN, September 15, 2015
- ‘A Spool of Blue Thread,’ by Anne TylerThe New York Times Sunday Book Review, February 13, 2015
- A Spool of Blue Thread review – in defence of Anne TylerThe Guardian, February 4, 2015
- Anne Tyler to Release ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2015
- Anne Tyler in conversation with Mark LawsonBBC Radio 4 Interview, March 29, 2013
Other Books by Anne Tyler
- The Beginner's Goodbye byISBN: 9780307957276Publication Date: 2012-04-03Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel in which she explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances--in their house, on the roadway, in the market.
- Noah's Compass byISBN: 9780307272409Publication Date: 2010-01-05A wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life.
- Digging to America byISBN: 9780345492340Publication Date: 2007-08-28A story about what it is to be an American, and about Iranian-born Maryam Yazdan, who, after 35 years in this country, must finally come to terms with her outsiderness.
- The Amateur Marriage byISBN: 9781400042074Publication Date: 2004-01-06A rich and compelling novel about a mismatched marriage and its consequences, spanning three generations.
- Back When We Were Grownups byISBN: 9780375412530Publication Date: 2001-05-01The woman is Rebecca Davitch, a fifty-three-year-old grandmother. Is she an impostor in her own life? she asks herself. Is it indeed her own life? Or is it someone else's?
- A Patchwork Planet byISBN: 9780375402562Publication Date: 1998-04-14A story of a lovable loser who's trying to get his life in order.
- Searching for Caleb byISBN: 9780449911747Publication Date: 1996-08-27Duncan Peck has a fascination for randomness and is always taking his family on the move. His wife, Justine, is a fortune teller who can't remember the past. Her grandfather, Daniel, longs to find the brother who walked out of his life in 1912, with nothing more than a fiddle in his hand. All three are taking journeys that lead back to the family's deepest roots...to a place where rebellion and acceptance have the haunting power to merge into one....
- Ladder of Years byISBN: 9780679441557Publication Date: 1995-04-11Celia Grinstead, 40-year-old mother of three almost-grown children, on a sudden impulse, walks away from her marriage, hitches a ride into the unknown, and settles in a strange new town. But soon after she begins her impersonal, unencumbered new life, fresh responsibilities inevitably accumulate.
- Saint Maybe byISBN: 9780449911600Publication Date: 1996-08-27In 1965, the happy Bedloe family is living an ideal, apple-pie existence in Baltimore. Then, in the blink of an eye, a single tragic event occurs that will transform their lives forever.
- Breathing Lessons byISBN: 9780345485595Publication Date: 2006-09-26Maggie and Ira Moran have been married for twenty-eight years and it shows: in their quarrels, in their routines, in their ability to tolerate with affection each other's eccentricities. And what begins as a day trip to a funeral becomes an adventure in the unexpected. As Maggie and Ira navigate the riotous twists and turns, they intersect with an assorted cast of eccentrics and rediscover the magic of the road called life and the joy of having somebody next to you to share the ride . . . bumps and all.
- Celestial Navigation byISBN: 9780449911808Publication Date: 1996-08-27Thirty-eight-year-old Jeremy Pauling has never left home. He lives on the top floor of a Baltimore row house where he creates collages of little people snipped from wrapping paper. His elderly mother putters in the rooms below, until her death. And it is then that Jeremy is forced to take in Mary Tell and her child as boarders. Mary is unaware of how much courage it takes Jaremy to look her in the eye. For Jeremy, like one of his paper creations, is fragile and easily torn--especially when he's falling in love....
- Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant byISBN: 9780449911594Publication Date: 1996-08-27Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not of her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore's Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone: Jenny, high-spirited and determined, nurturing to strangers but distant to those she loves; the older son, Cody, a wild and incorrigible youth possessed by the lure of power and money; and sweet, clumsy Ezra, Pearl's favorite, who never stops yearning for the perfect family that could never be his own. Now Pearl and her three grown children have gathered together again with anger, hope, and a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell.
- A Slipping down Life byISBN: 9780804108867Publication Date: 1992-08-23Evie Decker is a shy, slightly plump teenager, lonely and silent. But her quiet life is shattered when she hears the voice of Drumstrings Casey on the radio and becomes instantly attracted to him. She manages to meet him, bursting out of her lonely shell--and into the attentive gaze of the intangible man who becomes all too real...
Videos about A Spool of Blue Thread
1. What are the main themes of the novel? Which did you find most thought-provoking?
2. The novel opens and closes with Denny. Do you think he’s the main character? If not, who is?
3. We don’t learn the full significance of the title until nearly (on page 350). How did this delay make the metaphor more powerful? What is the metaphor?
4. On page 10, Tyler writes, “Well, of course they did hear from him again. The Whitshanks weren’t a melodramatic family.” What type of family are they? Compare the way you see them with the way they see themselves.
5. Chapter 2 begins with the Whitshank family stories: “These stories were viewed as quintessential—as defining, in some way—and every family member, including Stem’s three-year-old, had heard them told and retold and embroidered and conjectured upon any number of times.” (page 40) Why are these two stories so important? Why is the story of Red’s sister important to Red’s family?
6. “Patience, in fact, was what the Whitshanks imagined to be the theme of their two stories—patiently lying in wait for what they believed should come to them.” (page 57) Others might say it was envy or disappointment. Which interpretation makes the most sense to you? Can you think of another linking theme?
7. How does Abby’s story about the day she fell in love with Red fit into the Whitshank family history? Why isn’t it one of the family’s two defining stories?
8. Much is made of Abby’s “orphans,” which we learn also include Stem. What does her welcoming of strangers into her home say about her character? How do the others’ responses set up a subtle contrast?
9. Discuss the character Denny. Why is he so resentful of Stem? Why is he so secretive about his life?
10. Do Red and Abby have favorite children and grandchildren? Who do you think each one favors?
11. On page 151, Tyler writes about Abby: “She had always assumed that when she was old, she would have total confidence, finally. But look at her: still uncertain.” Do you think Abby’s family sees her as uncertain or lacking in confidence? Why?
12. Abby dies suddenly in an accident, just like Red’s parents did. When it came to his parents, “Red was of the opinion that instantaneous death was a mercy…” (page 153) Do you think he felt the same way after Abby’s death?
13. Why didn’t Abby tell Red about Stem’s mother? Why didn’t Denny tell Stem? And why, after they learn the truth, does Stem make Red and Denny promise not to tell anyone else?
14. At Abby’s funeral, Reverend Alban speculates that heaven may be “a vast consciousness that the dead return to,” bringing their memories with them. (page 189) What do you think of his theory? What do you imagine Abby would say about it?
15. Why did Red’s pausing to count the rings on the felled poplar make Abby fall in love with him?
16. The novel isn’t structured chronologically. How does Tyler use shifts in time to reveal character and change the reader’s perception?
17. What is the significance of the porch swing? What does it tell us about Linnie Mae and Junior?
18. After reading their story, how did your opinion of Linnie Mae change?
19. The Whitshank house, built by Junior and maintained by Red, is practically a character in the novel. What does it mean to the Whitshank family? Why, in the end, does it seem easy for Red to leave?
20. On the train at the end of the novel, Denny sits next to a teenage boy who cries quietly. What is the significance of this scene?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
Reserve or Borrow a Copy
- A Spool of Blue Thread byISBN: 9781101874271Publication Date: 2015-02-10
- The End of the Point byISBN: 9780062184849Publication Date: 2013-03-05A place out of time, Ashaunt Point, has provided sanctuary and anchored life for generations of the Porter family, who summer along its remote, rocky shore. But in 1942, the U.S. Army arrives on the Point, bringing havoc and change. That summer, the two older Porter girls, teenagers Helen and Dossie, run wild. The children's Scottish nurse, Bea, falls in love. And youngest daughter Janie is entangled in an incident that cuts the season short and haunts the family for years to come. As the decades pass, Helen and then her son Charlie return to the Point, seeking refuge from the chaos of rapidly changing times. But Ashaunt is not entirely removed from events unfolding beyond its borders.
- Someone byISBN: 9780374281090Publication Date: 2013-09-10An ordinary life--its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion--lived by an ordinary woman. Scattered recollections--of childhood, adolescence, motherhood, old age--come together in this transformative narrative, stitched into a vibrant whole by McDermott's deft, lyrical voice.
- This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage byISBN: 9780062236678Publication Date: 2013-11-05This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is an examination of the things Ann Patchett is fully committed to; the art and craft of writing, the depths of friendship, an elderly dog, and one spectacular nun. Writing nonfiction, which started off as a means of keeping her insufficiently lucrative fiction afloat, evolved over time to be its own kind of art, the art of telling the truth as opposed to the art of making things up. Bringing her narrative gifts to bear on her own life, Patchett uses insight and compassion to turn very personal experiences into stories that will resonate with every reader.
- Some Luck byISBN: 9780307700315Publication Date: 2014-10-07A powerful, engrossing new novel--the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America. On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father's heart. Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change.