|A Spool of Blue Thread : Anne Tyler|
Every now and then a book comes along which really consumes me. Where I'll start reading one minute and all of a sudden I've been running for an hour, completely and utterly immersed in the world of the characters. In this case, the Whitshanks, who have lived in the house with the blue porch swing for the past three generations. Kind of.
Introduced first to the current generation - Abby and Red Whitshank bring up their four children as well as they can, with Abby's selfless and kind nature causing her to also open up her home to any number of people in need, referred to by her children as her "orphans". There was a particularly poignant moment in Abby's story for me, as she begins to feel that once she's retired from her profession as a social worker, and all of the people she's helped have moved on without her, no longer needing her input, perhaps she is reduced to nothing. I think this resonated with me mostly because Abby's traits remind me very much of someone I know.
Although there are family secrets which have been kept for years, which come out during the course of the story, it's quite a gentle book, about getting older and how family life has a habit of moving on, whether you expect it to or not. Everything changes, and those little decisions you make, about whether to introduce yourself to the family who have been renting the holiday cottage next to yours every year for as long as you can recall, or not, can have a lasting effect on things, even if it might not seem so at the time.
As Red and Abby get older, their children, with their own families, come together to try and figure out the best way to support their parents, and sibling rivalries have a way of coming back, as though time hasn't changed things at all. Their sons, Denny and Stem haven't quite managed to put the years behind them.
Ad the idea of leaving the family home is thrown around, the next part of the book tells us all there is to know about Red's parents and how they came to live in their Baltimore house in the first place. Their love story perhaps not the most traditional, but did Red and Abby make up for that?
I really enjoyed this, even if I can't quite put my finger on a precise reason why. I could have read twice as much about the Whitshanks again, without any bother: quietly enjoyable.