A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Spool of Blue Thread

Plot Summary Part 1

This is the story of three generations of Whitshanks. The story starts with the middle generation, Red and Abby, and their son Denny.

The book starts with Denny calling home to Abby and Red to tell them that he is a homosexual. "Hi Mom and Dad, I'm homosexual!" he says, before hanging up.

At this point you expect the book to be about Denny's anal adventures into other men. But after this beginning, Denny's homosexuality is never, ever again referred to for the rest of the book. We learn zero about his relationships, zero about his lifestyle, and almost zero about his work. All we know is he is a substitute teacher and stores his possessions in some lady's garage.

His parents never ask about him being homosexual, which is totally unrealistic, and Denny never tells them anything about his life and they never press him, which also is totally unrealistic.

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Anyway, some years after telling his parents that he is a homosexual, Denny invites them to his wedding, to a woman he has never mentioned before. Instead of being outraged at being shut out of his life, his parents meekly go to his wedding without asking any questions. His wife, Carla, gives birth to a baby, which Denny brings home to show Red and Abby. Red and Abby ask no questions about the baby, nor do they ask about what kind of work Denny does for a living. They are cowed sheep.

They don't hear from Denny for three years, when they learn that Denny and Carla have divorced. No explanation. All we can assume is that Carla learned about Denny's anal activities with other men and dumped him, but this is never explained.

But then, at times, Denny showed kindness. When his sister Jeannie was depressed after squeezing an immense baby out of her v_gina, Denny came over to take care of her.

Abby comments to Red how shocking it is that they are willing to accept so little from Denny. Yes, that's one of the major themes, how Abby and Red are basically "do whatever you like" parents without demanding any accountability from their child. They had no idea what Denny did for work, they knew nothing of his relationships, they could go for years at a time without hearing from him, but they never pried or asked what he was doing with himself. They were total sheep parents. Baaa.

Meanwhile Abby starts to go insane. Or senile. Or something. She blanks out and they find her just sitting on the street, blocks away, in a rain storm, and she seems unaware of what is going on. Abby is normally nutty--she had no filter on her mouth, and just enjoyed saying whatever popped into her mind, but this was a new level of nuttiness, even for her.

At the same time Red got a heart attack. You know it was affecting him because he wasn't fixing up his beloved house. All we know about Red is that he loves to fix and change things in his house. If he isn't doing that, he's already halfway to the coffin.

Amanda, their daughter, wants to pack them off to a retirement home.

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