A Spool of Blue Thread

Anne Tyler is a writer who faded from my attention over the years, but you know . . . she’s very good, even though, like most novelists, she seems to write the same book over and over again.  Here is the beginning of the Washington Post review, which captures what I felt:

The characters in “A Spool of Blue Thread” look like the same Baltimore family members we’ve socialized with for 50 years in Anne Tyler’s fiction. In fact, everything about her new novel — from its needlepointed title to its arthritic plot — sounds worn-out.

So how can it be so wonderful? The funky meals, the wacky professions, the distracted mothers and the lost children — they’re all here. But complaining that Tyler’s novels are redundant is like whining that Shakespeare’s sonnets are always 14 lines long. Somehow, what’s familiar seems transcended in these pages, infused with freshness and surprise — evidence, once again, that Tyler remains among the best chroniclers of family life this country has ever produced.

(I should say, though, that my lovely wife begs to differ and believes that, at age 75, Tyler has forgotten how to be funny.)

BookBub sends me an email every day with blurbs about all the thrillers and mysteries and bestsellers they have on sale. And they all sound the same.  Like so:

After a US colonel is murdered in Istanbul, Special Agent Vin Cooper suspects a serial killer is at large — but the truth is even more terrifying…


When a young professor is horribly murdered, coroner Sara Linton uncovers the work of a twisted mind — one that is all too ready to kill again. And her past could hold the key to catching him…


Special Agent Jack Randall is determined to catch the elusive shooter responsible for killing a prominent lawyer. But to find the murderer, he’ll have to delve into his own haunted past…

Some of these books are surely great, with quirky characters and clever plots and great writing.  But somehow I never end up buying any of them.  But now I have to go back and read all the Anne Tyler novels that I missed.  I need fewer special agents with haunted pasts and more quirky Baltimore families.

1 thought on “A Spool of Blue Thread

  1. Pingback: What makes a plot “arthritic”? | Richard Bowker

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