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Publisher's Summary

The Sunday Times best seller

Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Fiction prize

A Richard and Judy Book Club pick

"It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon..."

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century - four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home....

©2015 Anne Tyler (P)2015 Random House Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"She’s changed my perception on life." (Anna Chancellor)
"One of my favourite authors." (Liane Moriarty)
"She spins gold." (Elizabeth Buchan)
"Anne Tyler has no peer." (Anita Shreve)
"My favourite writer, and the best line-and-length novelist in the world." (Nick Hornby)
"A masterly author." (Sebastian Faulks)
"Tyler is not merely good, she is wickedly good." (John Updike)
"I love Anne Tyler." (Anita Brookner)
"Her fiction has strength of vision, originality, freshness, unconquerable humour." (Eudora Welty)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Superb

A deep and rich evocation of family. Anne Tyler creates yet another wonderful world full of the details that make fiction seem even more vivid than life. A writer at the peak of her imaginative powers sharing with us her wisdom and insight on the frailty and wonder of what it means to belong to the people we are related to.

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Great!

Ah, Tyler does it again! So satisfying and complete. Heart filled and sweeping extended family drama with unexpected forays and a good ending.

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  • Alison
  • 05-23-16

Not For Me

I love many of Anne Tyler's books and have read almost of them I think. But this is the second audio book of hers I have bought and I didn't enjoy either of them. Maybe I chose the wrong books, or maybe they work better for me 'in my head' rather than being read to.

I see from the reviews of this recording that views are polarized - but several reviewers said they found it boring and so did I.

The gentleness of her writing and skillful character drawing are both present in this book - the problem really began with me realizing about 25% of the way in, that I didn't like any of the characters she had drawn, except maybe one of Abby's daughters. The elder son just annoyed me, as did the family's rather pathetic 'fear' of him and his casually nasty behaviour. Then we veered off into a distant back-story...I was bored by this point and I considered abandoning it, but I kept going.

The story goes back and forth and though there are some plot twists, nothing much really happens. I don't usually mind that, as long as the journey is rewarding but for me, it was not.

The narration was OK; it did seem to match the dull, rather whiny tone of the book. No-one was ever really happy it seemed; but no-one was unhappy enough to tackle it. So the family, much like the book, just drift.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Price
  • 06-05-16

Seamless Sewing at it's Best!

I absolutely loved this book in all its multi-layered glory.Kimberly Farr does an exquisite job of the narration, each character's voice clearly resounding, making the story come alive. I won't talk about the plot as it would spoil Ann Tyler's twists and turns, but the writing is beautiful and the characters take on a life of their own. Suffice to say that if you purchase this book you won't regret it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • P1955
  • 04-17-16

Well worth the listen.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Itntook me a little whilento get intomit but gradually I was drawn in completely. The narrator enhanced my experience as her voice was so interesting to listen to.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicista
  • 02-04-16

GREAT FAMILY SAGA

Would you consider the audio edition of A Spool of Blue Thread to be better than the print version?

I have not read the book. I prefer audible books because they are performed. I do not have to read and imagine. I can just listen and see.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Spool of Blue Thread?

The moment when the relevance of the spool of blue thread is revealed. This author is exceptional. I was moved without a point being hammered home.

What about Kimberly Farr’s performance did you like?

A good narrator. Made me believe the story and the characters.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-14-15

Brilliant

I got really absorbed in this book and recommend to anyone who enjoys a good family drama. It was thought provoking and emotionally charged. Anne Tyler is skilled contemporary writer, offering a humorous, moving and clever tale, woven back and forth across different generations. The narrator did a good job of bringing the characters to life .

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • LS
  • 10-08-15

Utterly gorgeous!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have loved to listen to it all in one setting but it's very long. It's like a long luxurious bath or a delicious meal. This is a tale of family life - very descriptive of the location and the characters.

Any additional comments?

I listened to this on holiday - very soothing and relaxing

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • S. D.
  • 07-25-16

Nothing much happens

I had to read this for a book club meeting. I found the book hard to get into so I bought it on Audible because I was going on a long journey. It passed the time but nothing really happened. I won't be reading any more books by this author.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. P. D. Selman
  • 07-05-16

Unwinding

I don't have too much to say about this one other than that I really, really, really liked it.

I've not read any Anne Tyler before but she was recommended to me by a friend, so when I saw this in a sale I snapped it up. I'm so glad I did.

This book tells the life story of an extended family who are a perfectly normal family in as much as there is such a thing (I'm pretty sure there isn't). The characters aren't exceptional people but they are exceptionally well developed and written. They became so real to me that I kept forgetting this was fiction!

Tyler's writing is nothing short of beautiful. She has a rhythmic, lyrical prose style that sucked me in and wouldn't let go. I'll definitely be reading more of her work. Everything comes together perfectly and I found myself deeply moved in a number of places. I'll admit it; there were tears!

If, like me, you read a lot of fantasy, horror and science fiction but occasionally like to read about a world that's a little closer to the one you actually live in, you could do worse than to give this a try.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • J C Forbes
  • 06-29-16

Spool of blue thread

I loved it. Beautifully crafted writing and well read. It wouldn't suit anyone who likes a fast moving plot but if you enjoy the intricacies of family relationships, it's for you

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anna
  • 06-23-16

lovely, funny, warm and nicely written story

I enjoyed this book very much. read printed version and bought audiobook as loved book so much. It was my first book of this author but not last for sure.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Belinda
  • 05-15-15

Loved it!

An excellent and intriguing story of an ordinary family.

Spans across generations to show what makes us who we are.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jane
  • 03-12-16

Fascinating and engaging read

Would you consider the audio edition of A Spool of Blue Thread to be better than the print version?

I have only listened to the audio edition

Who was your favorite character and why?

Linnie Mae, I think because of her innocence at some level and her strength to follow through with her love for Junior no matter what - I saw her as a strong character who did not succumb to Junior's authority but worked her wishes around the relationship.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Many, the swing on the porch story! There was also a lovely point where Abbey is welcomed by Linnie in the kitchen.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Not sure really

Any additional comments?

I would have liked the book to have developed the characters further, I would have liked to hear Nora's voice, what were her thoughts, I would have liked to have heard more of Denny's voice - the ending seemed to leap and be a bit hurried. I think there could have been more development of the overall story to bring it together a bit more some aspects seem to be brushed over so why where they in the story - on the other hand, is this not what families are like over time, some people are not remembered as well to all members and their lives are hidden for no special reason other than what some people focus on as having meaning to them.

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  • Kate
  • 07-08-15

Not Anne Tyler's best work

Kinda blanked out for long periods and was looking forward to it being over. Which is very rare for me and my audio books. Tyler has always been one of my all time favorites and this was a disappointment.

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  • Sam Still Reading
  • 05-24-15

Wonderful story about the nuances of family

I seem to be saying this a lot lately, but although this is my first Anne Tyler book, it definitely won’t be the last. Two things enticed me to read A Spool of Blue Thread – the gorgeous cover and the fact that it was longlisted (and now shortlisted) for the Baileys Prize. I think I need to thank the Baileys Prize for such a stunning longlist this year, as it’s been the best ever for me in terms of finding new authors that I adore.

I listened to A Spool of Blue Thread in the car and it almost had me hoping I’d end up in a traffic jam so I could listen to more. The story is so good that I just wanted to devour the whole thing (perhaps binge listen is the right term). Kimberly Farr’s narration is spot on and I’m always impressed by narrators that can produce different nuances of speech for each character. She is Abby, Red, Junior, Stem, Denny and Nora. My only critique of the audiobook is that I don’t know how some of the characters’ names are spelled – is it Linney Mae or Linnie Mae? Jeanie or Jeannie? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Anne Tyler has taken one family with its own quirks and skeleton (no matter how much they try to hide them) and created a wonderful story over three generations of the Whitshank family that is never dull. It’s comical, sad, thought provoking and downright crazy at times, but it shows the love that the family have for each other.

Of course, no family is perfect (even though Junior, Red’s father, did try to build the perfect house). The story opens as Red and Abby, now elderly, get a phone call from black sheep son Denny. He says he’s gay – maybe. The family aren’t sure if they’ve heard correctly. Denny’s an enigma to the rest of the open Whitshanks – he doesn’t live nearby, doesn’t have a steady job (they think) and doesn’t really partake in family gatherings wholeheartedly. The Whitshanks are pretty damn hot in their own eyes – it’s not flaunted, but the family are secure in their love for each other. But it’s not as simple as that. There’s Stem, who was taken in as an orphan and his wife Nora, who the family see as a bit different. But daughters Jeannie and Amanda have their own issues with their Hughs (love that Anne Tyler took what happens so commonly in real families, that two people have the same name) and Denny’s life isn’t that straightforward. But now Abby and Red are getting old – Abby’s memory isn’t too good and Red is getting frail. Will the family bond over this?

We also learn more about the previous generation of Whitshanks – Junior and Linnie Mae. How did Junior go about acquiring such a grand house in Baltimore? How did he and Linnie Mae meet?: How did Red and Abby meet? It’s a wonderful journey across the generations proving that no family is ever straightforward or boring. And as for the Whitshank house…it sounds amazing. (How dare that real estate agent complain so much?) It was built with love and an aim for perfection, just like the family.

Anne Tyler’s prose is wonderful, enveloping and warm. She tells simple things so well, with honesty and an eye for the detail of families – long buried grudges, adult siblings that can still bicker and the bonding that occurs during hard times. This is a wonderful read and I’m crossing my fingers it wins the Baileys Prize this year.