Anne Tyler: We All Know These Characters

The Matchmakers team welcomes guest blogger, librarian Bill Rubin! Bill writes:
As a bit of back story, I was asked to lead a book discussion in May. That obviously isn’t going to happen now so I decided to share with you some of my thoughts. I chose Anne Tyler because she is one of my favorite writers.
Anne Tyler’s stories are filled with people who, at first glance, seem like people we know well. They are modern archetypes and their exaggerated foibles are easily identifiable. While reading you might think, “That’s my Dad.” or “She reminds me of Mrs. Smith down the street?”
Which brings me to A Spool of Blue Thread which I chose for the discussion. The book was published in 2015. At the time that Anne Tyler wrote it she said that she would be retiring and that this would be her last book. Fortunately that has not been the case.
It is the story of four generations of the Whitshank family with the centerpiece being their Baltimore home. The story unfolds on a number of intermingled timelines in which events are remembered, told and retold from the perspective of different characters.
And as is always the case, I know these people. I can identify with their lives and frustrations. I wince at the paragraphs that cut a little too close to the bone. I recognize the common issues that they and I are dealing with.
The characters in Anne Tyler’s books are ultimately forgiving and are forgiven. For being human, for making mistakes, for not always being their best selves. In the past some have tried their best. Some haven’t. Some you should emulate. Some…not so much.
In A Spool of Blue Thread, what the characters discover as they move towards the last page is that what is important isn’t the often misremembered facts of their story, seen from their own perspective. In the end, what is important to them, and by extension to us, is the Future, and what they, and we, plan to do with it.
Anne Tyler is a very insightful writer and now is a good time to read or reread her work. Her books are available free on Overdrive/Libby in both ebook and audio formats using your CHUH Library Card.

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