A Spool of Blue Thread, By Anne Tyler

Meet the family. There’s Abby and Red in their extended domesticity, Junior Whitshank a carpenter from back in the day, the family’s ‘orphans’ like Atta, and the uncommunicative Denny who disappears, gets hitched and has a baby. We see the unfolding stories through anecdotes and flashbacks with the characters unwrapped in all their ordinariness and all their complexity.

There’s a certain universal depth to her characterisations that allow the ready to recognise people from their own lives despite the American setting with its cultural differences. She also adds a deal of humour which prevents the stories having a sugary gloss along with sharp but subtle social divides that are the property of a good observer. Well-paced, conversational and accessible A Spool of Blue Thread takes you into the living rooms of middle America in the last few decades of the 20th century.

Harry Mottram. 4 stars