Maggie Fergusson in More Intelligent Life:

SpoolofbluethreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, Chatto, hardback, out now. Abby Whitshank, the selfless, self-doubting mother at the heart of Anne Tyler’s 20th novel, can’t bear to think that hers is “just another muddled, discontented, ordinary family”. But apparently ordinary families are what Tyler loves best. She writes about them with involved detachment, creating characters who are flawed but endearing, and capable of occasional humdrum heroism. Moving backwards in time, she explores three generations of Whitshanks: “Junior”, who built the family’s Baltimore home in the 1930s, his son Red, Abby’s husband, and Red and Abby’s four grown-up children, who compete to take control as their parents tumble into senility. Tyler is brilliant at the hairline fractures between siblings, and the intermeshing of irritation and tenderness that makes a marriage. But the real triumph here is her portrayal of old age—droll, and desperately sad.

More here.