A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Spool of Blue Thread


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.

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The family tree:

At the top are Junior and Linnie Mae. (Time Period 1--the very distant past--almost from the age of dinosaurs!)

Junior and Linnie Mae had sex and spawned Red and Merrick.  (Time Period 2--the somewhat distant past--almost from the time of the pyramids were being built!)

Red hooked up with Abby and spawned Denny, Jeannie, Amanda, and kind-of Stem. (Time period 3--The Present!).

Junior: So Junior is the one who started it all, the first Whitshank to emerge from the stone age era and learn that women could have other uses besides clubbing. He started his illustrious career having sex with Linnie Mae when he was 26 and she was 13. Ooops! After discovering her true age, he ran away to hide, but Linnie Mae, when she turned 18, tracked him down and got busy in his pants again. Junior is portrayed as passive while Linnie Mae leads him by the cock and tells him what to do.

Junior's "big story" is how he got this fancy house he built. He built the house for some rich people, but when he left a rope in the house, the wife of the owner got scared and wanted to move out, and sold the house to Junior.

Does what I just wrote in the previous sentence make no sense to you? If it does, you're paying attention.

 Linnie Mae: The 13 year old who seduced Junior, when he was 26. After Junior was driven out of town, Linnie Mae tracked him down 5 years later and picked up where they left off. Junior didn't want any part of her, but Linnie Mae grabbed tightly onto his cock and would not let go.

 Red: The son of Junior. He was obsessed with building and maintaining his house. Pages and pages of him talking about installing new bathrooms, new bedrooms. That's it! That's everything about him. What, he should have other character traits? Sorry, he doesn't.

Stem: The adopted son of Abby and Red. They call him Stem because when he was kid his neck was so thin that it could be snapped easily. He is named for having an easily broken neck. Despite being adopted, Stem is very protective of his adopted parents. When he learns that Abby knew the identity of his real mother, he wanted to bitchslap her until her blue thread dropped into his hands when he opened the closet door. Then he took the blue thread as a sign from God that Abby forgave him, or he forgave Abby, or whatever.

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Women with enormous breasts get what they want. 13 year old Linnie Mae was able to seduce and trap Junior, a 26 year old man because of one thing: her giant breasts. When he left her, Linnie Mae tracked him down, turned his life upside down, and forced him to accept her, using the power of her large breasts. Women with big breasts are powerful and can get what they want. That's why women with smaller breasts are envious of them.

Homosexual men shouldn't marry women. Denny was married to Carla but their marriage didn't last and he didn't even produce their baby, probably because he was homosexual. Women don't generally want to marry homosexual men because they don't want to catch AIDS and die. They also don't want a penis inside them that has been inside another man's rear end. That's probably why Denny's marriage was doomed from the start.

Bad parenting leads to bad children. Abby and Red seemed too afraid to ask Denny about his homosexuality, or what job he was working at, or even where he was living. They were obviously terrible parents who didn't do a good job raising Denny. If they had, they would have instilled in Denny the value of respecting parents and having open lines of communication so he would tell them what was going on with his life.

Nutty moms irritate their kids. Was it a total surprise when Abby's kids were relieved when she died? The fact is that Abby was an annoying bitch who was a motor mouth who would say anything to anyone, which really pissed off her family mightily.

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