A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler Summary Study Guide

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Plot Summary Part 4

But Linnie Mae's persistence and enormous breasts paid off, and in the end he accepted her. We are supposed to think from this story that Linnie Mae is a determined, manipulative bitch who gets what she wants. (And she was.)

Anyway, back in the present, Stem, who is still enraged that Abby didn't tell him about his real mom, opened a closet and Abby's blue thread fell into his hands. He took this as a sign from God that Abby wanted to make peace with him, and he felt content. So that's what the title of the book is about--a spool of blue thread--Stem feeling that Abby is talking to him about the afterlife about withholding the identity of his real mom. It's kind of a let-down because the title of this book has nothing to do with most of the characters, but is merely connected to this very small anecdote at the end of the book.

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This book was bad. Really bad.

First of all, there was no central plot. There were a series of short, unconnected anecdotes, but nothing even approaching a story. If the anecdotes had had some connection to each other, it might have worked. For example, if after the story of Linnie Mae seducing Junior, we were fed a story of Abby seducing Red, and then a story of Mrs. Stem seducing Stem, and so on, it would have had one consistent theme. But these stories are disjointed and totally unrelated.

And most of the anecdotes were "so what?" kind of stories. Abby loses her mind. And she dies. So what?

Junior is obsessed with building houses and Red is obsessed with owning one. Why should we care?

I think the book was intended to be a series of character sketches, but if so, it failed miserably at that as well. All we know about Junior is that he likes building houses and having sex with 13 year olds with large breasts. We don't know how he felt about his marriage to Linnie Mae in the long term; we don't even know how he felt about his children.

We were told Denny was homosexual, but we learned not a thing about his anal activities throughout the book. Nothing about his work, nothing about his personal life. Zero.

Stem was an orphan but the best part of an orphan story is confronting your birth mother. No, we didn't get that scene either.

Abby is nutty and then dies. We know nothing else about her as a character.

The idea of this book could have worked if we had had more well defined characters. Show us how Abby feels towards her children. Show us that Junior has a life beyond building houses and Red has a life beyond fixing them. Show us how and why Denny broke up with Carla. Instead we got hundreds of pages of pointless dinner conversations, with the most interesting part of peoples' lives left unmentioned. Very poorly written on so many levels.

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