A Spool of Blue Thread Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following questions can help you guide your students through a structured discussion of their thoughts and feelings about Anne Tyler's 2015 novel 'A Spool of Blue Thread.'

A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread is a 2015 novel by American author Anne Tyler, following the trials of the Whitshank family. Dealing with themes of acceptance and familial relations, there are many issues that students should find to talk about. This discussion is intended for high school students but can be adapted to other ages as well.

Questions about Plot and Characters

  • In one sentence, how would you describe A Spool of Blue Thread? How would you explain it to a friend?
  • How are we introduced to the Whitshank family? How does this introduction serve to establish important dynamics, conflicts, and aspects of relationships that define this family? What were your first impressions of Abby and Red?
  • What is the Whitshank family like? What unites them and bonds them? What are the conflicts that divide them? How do Abby and Red's advanced ages contribute to both of these?
  • What does the house represent to each person in the family? Which character is most directly tied to the house? How do we see Red's personality in the house? How do we see a reflection of Red's decline in the state of the house?
  • If the house represents Red, what in this book represents Abby and her emotional and personal state?
  • What sort of dynamics are explored between family members in this novel? Which did you find the most interesting, compelling or moving? Why? How do adopted children, spouses, and pets fit into these dynamics?
  • What is the climax of this novel? How does this bring all of the conflicts and character dynamics to a head? How is the conflict resolved? Is there a clear and satisfying resolution for everyone? Why do you think that is?
  • What were the purposes of giving us Red and Abby's backstory and Junior and Linnie Mae's backstory? How does this impact the way we've interpreted the Whitshanks?

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