Up from the Blue
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Up from the Blue

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,520 ratings  ·  343 reviews
Tillie Harris's life is in disarray--her husband is away on business, the boxes in her new home aren't unpacked, and the telephone isn't even connected yet. Though she's not due for another month, sudden labor pains force Tillie to reach out to her estranged father for help, a choice that means facing the painful memories she's been running from since she was a little girl...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 445 pages
Published February 2nd 2011 by Thorndike Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Susan Henderson
Jun 27, 2010 Susan Henderson added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-im-in
Deep appreciation for all of you who've read my book or sent me notes about it. I can't begin tell you what it means to me.
In a literary era when plot is often been abandoned Henderson really delivers some startling surprises in her first novel. It’s well written and engaging especially the main character Tillie. Just when you think you know exactly what is happening you’ll turn a corner and wonder what’s real. The book is set mostly in the 70’s as Tillie and her brother Phil, both pre-teens; grow up with their rigid, military dad and their dreamy, literary mom. There are a lot of social changes in the air such as s...more
Set in the 70s, during the era of bussing and all that entailed, UP FROM THE BLUE tells the story of family dysfunction stemming from a mother afflicted with severe manic depression. We start with the girl now grown up and about to have her own child, then we travel back in time to her as a child struggling to understand what is wrong with her mother. The story moves at a fast pace, with well timed twists and turns. Compelling but not disingenuous. It is real and raw.

To me, this is a story abou...more
As much as I wanted to slow down and enjoy this book, I devoured it and will remember the characters therein for quite sometime as they're memorable, charming, flawed and quite real. You're able to see them and their flaws from so many different angles it's no wonder memories and actions differ from one character to the other. A book to be pondered upon. I originally gave this book four stars and changed it to five as it's been more than a week and I find myself still thinking about various aspe...more
Chuck Erion
Up From the Blue is a first novel by Susan Henderson, a New York writer with a couple of Pushcart Prize nominations to her credit. It came out last September (HarperCollins $15.99) but I only discovered it last week, thanks to a review in Shelf Awareness, my favorite e-newsletter about the book trade. The fact that I read it in just two days has more to do with how good a book it is, than my deadline for this column. The ending brought me to tears, and an urge to call up the author to find out i...more
Sara Strand
If you are a parent, a child with a parent suffering from depression, or a parent going through depression yourself, this is a MUST READ. I was immediately gripped during the beginning chapters where Tillie begins labor. Because I've been there, I could instantly connect with her, but anyone who hasn't given birth would feel the frantic feelings described in the beginning.

And then it takes you back to Tillie's childhood. You get to see the inner workings of a troubled military family. Phil, the...more
Michele Harrod
This is an exquisitely presented study of a very broken family, who are quite literally hiding their secrets behind closed doors. It is about children who are old enough to carry the shame, but who require the sanctity of their parents love regardless. It is about the slow breakdown of a woman, a marriage, and a family. This is beautifully written, and brilliantly constructed. Told from the perspective of Tilly, the seven year old daughter, Up From the Blue surprises thoughout - by showing sides...more
Tillie is a bright, young, free spirit who loves her mother more than anything. She sees her mother's mood swings as exciting and admires the way she can see beauty in ordinary things. Through Tillie's description we learn that her mother has some sort of mental illness which seems to rapidly get worse as the book goes on. Understandably, Tillie has to face some tough circumstances and her whole world is engulfed in the sickness that has plagued her mother. [return][return]Tillie's brother is a...more
Don't read too many detailed reviews of this book until you have read the book. You don't want anything to spoil it for you.

Reading this book was like devouring a wonderfully rich dessert. I wanted to slowly savor every bite, rolling it around on my tongue, but I could not slow down, I had to rush forward until the whole thing was consumed. The prose is flawless and rich; the characters true to life, and I could picture the house and the family perfectly.

As Henderson described the life inside t...more
The beginning of this impressive debut novel starts out with Tillie as a grown woman expecting her first child, which sets up the story. Then we are transported back to 1975 when Tillie was eight years old. This is where most of the story is told to us by Tillie. More than anything Tillie only wants to know where her mother is and why won't anybody tell her anything. Her father is busy with his work all the time and her older brother, Phil, just wants her to leave him alone.

One of my favorite ty...more
I recently caught a rerun of an old Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit episode in which one of the lead detectives must reach out to his estranged mother when his daughter's mental illness comes to light because of legal issues. His mother also suffered from mental illness, only it was never talked about in that way. His mother was odd, sometimes manic and then falling into deep depressions.

I couldn't help but draw parallels between that episode and Susan Henderson's novel, Up From the Blue. W...more
Tillie – the eight-year-old protagonist of Susan Henderson’s debut book – is a sheer delight. She’s sassy and unaffected, disobedient and fun-loving, lonely and imaginative. And she’s also the daughter of a demanding and organized military man, and his emotionally fragile wife, Mara.

At the book’s beginning, her father is getting ready to move the family to Washington D.C. to assume a top Pentagon position. Tillie is left with her father’s no-nonsense assistant and is to be sent for a week or so...more
Tricia Dower
I read this book in one day while traveling from British Columbia to Minnesota. (Hours in airports and on the plane!) I found it beautifully written and compelling. All of the characters are unique, finely drawn and sympathetic. Because 8-year-old Tillie is the narrator for most of it, the story is about her longing, confusion and attempts to nurture herself. I related to this story so much having had a depressed mother and a busy father. I did find the revelation about Tillie's mother after the...more
This is a marvelous coming of age story, which surprises and moves. Tillie, the main character, we come to know mostly as a troubled young girl, in a deeply stressed family. Her mother, a mentally disturbed, depressed, and emotionally flammable hippy type, is in a disastrous marriage to an American military prodigy, whose career is heading for the top of the Pentagon. We see all this from the perspective of an elementary school girl, and Henderson writes with great clarity and credibility in tha...more
Proud Book Nerd
This is a difficult book for me to review. It's not that it was bad. It was actually very well-written, and it held my interest. But, it's a very difficult subject. It's like when you're driving and you notice emergency vehicles. You know there's a bad wreck that you don't want to see, but you just can't stop looking. This book you just know as you read more and more that you don't really want to read the depressing narrative from Tillie's childhood. But, you've invested time into this book, and...more
If you liked Jeanette Wall's The Glass Castle, you'll want to read this. Tillie Harris has just moved to Washington, D.C. when she goes into labor, one month early. She has no friends, her husband is on business in Europe and she doesn't even have a doctor. So she calls the only person she knows there whom she hasn't seen in years, her father.

This brings back memories of her early childhood on an Army base in Arizona, with her mother, who went from manic to depressed, to the family's move to D.C...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 11, 2011 Karen rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I would not recommend it
I hate to give this book one star. It probably does deserve more, as the writing is good. But according to Goodreads' rating system, I have to give it only one star. I just didn't like it. I read through it quickly, and I liked Tillie's character as a child. But overall, the parents' characters really frustrated me, and the father's handling of the situation while at times compassionate, was just unrealistic and too unbelievable for me. While I appreciate the author's retelling through Tillie an...more
Sarah-Kate Lynch
This is one of those books that I picked up because it passed the Sarah-Kate Lynch Almost Always Fail-Safe Try Something New Test.
Just look at the cover! Who wouldn’t want to know more about that little freckled face, and why it doesn’t look so happy, and what sort of blue it could
have come up from?
Having so easily passed the first stage of the SKLAAFSTSNT, I turned it over
and read the blurb: “Tillie Harris’ life is in disarray – her husband is away on business, the boxes in her new home aren’t...more
Robin Slick
This is one of the most breathtaking books I've ever read.

I don't want to comment too much as I'll be doing an extensive review closer to its publication date, but t his is a must read. There are lines in this book that will be famous quotes...it will take its place among the classics on your bookshelf.

The writing is magnificent; the story and the narrator will leave you speechless.
I hated this book. I never should have read beyond the first chapter, but I kept hoping the story would pull away from the suicidally depressed mother and move on with the daughter. It didn't. Some movies should never be watched twice. I've had enough depression already!
Paula Gallagher
I enjoyed Henderson's writing style, and felt she did an excellent job of portraying 8 year-old Tillie. What soured the book for me was the major plot twist regarding her mother, which I found to be unbelievably ridiculous.
Jessica Keener
Stunning in every way. A gorgeous, heart-tugging story that is infused with wisdom, compassion and startling observations of character and sensibility. Love it!
Gripping and haunting. One of those books that grabs you and won't release you until you've finished. A families dysfunction and secrets revealing people that are complicated, flawed and resilient. Heroes and villains are all a matter of perspective and circumstance. I felt like it mirrored real family life where we all see the world through our unique lens thinking it reality and react in our own way. I like the message that the frailties of others might effect us but do not have to condemn us....more
Dierdra Byrd
I have went back and forth from 2-3 stars with this book but finally settled on 3 because it was not a horrible book and I really enjoyed the first half of it, it was the second half the sort of went downhill for me. This is a book about family, and depression and while those topic do interest me I feel as if this really focused on the wrong things. I liked Tillie at first but after awhile I sort of got tired about hearing all about her mom, what about her brother and her dad? What really made m...more
This book is so good and so sad. It is a fast read with surprise twists. I think from being a teacher this book reminded me so strongly of how kids can hide their hurt and fear through misbehavior. The author got so well into a child's mind and emotional state of being in a situation as Tillie's and searching for structure, truth, something they can count on in their otherwise unpredictable life. For example, on page 15 when Tillie says (about biting), "There was something comforting about that...more
Henderson takes the familiar bones of so many stories: emotionally distant father, army brat struggles, dysfunctional family life, and covers them with new, clean flesh. Her writing style is deceptively simple, so that even when she is telling instead of showing, she is still showing you something. This is not a civil issues novel, yet she weaves in truths about desegregation without ever getting didactic or preachy. Though this is, in some ways, a feminist novel, males are not really the enemy...more
From my book review blog Rundpinne....[return]Susan Henderson’s deeply moving and emotional debut novel Up From the Blue will capture the reader’s attention straightaway. Henderson’s use of beautiful prose with a simple and almost lyrical quality weaves together the life of Tillie which is filled with joy, sadness, despair and the loving bond between mothers and daughters. The reader first meets Tillie when she is in labour with her child and then the story flashes back to her childhood where th...more
Adrienne Crezo

From the publisher: Tillie Harris's life is in disarray—her husband is away on business, the boxes in her new home aren't unpacked, and the telephone isn't even connected yet. Though she's not due for another month, sudden labor pains force Tillie to reach out to her estranged father for help, a choice that means facing the painful memories she's been running from since she was a little girl.

After Tillie’s father shows up, we’re taken back to her home in 1975. She’s the eight-year-old daughter o...more
When Tillie Harris of Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson goes into early labor with her first child she is all alone. Her husband, Simon, is away on business, and the only person Tillie can turn to for support is her stern military father, Roy Harris. Roy is not about emotion and tenderness, like her wild mother Mara, rather he is about being proper and efficient. To find out how this came to be the novel flashes back from May 19, 1991 to 1975. A year when 8-year-old Tillie was at her most impr...more
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Author of UP FROM THE BLUE (HarperCollins), a 2010 Great Group Reads pick, blogger at LitPark.com, mother of two boys, two dogs, and two cats.

More about Susan Henderson...

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“Sometimes the easiest thing to do is nothing. You just make do. Keep your mouth closed and hope all the rattling goes away.” 3 likes
“But truth is stubborn.

Our nature, our secret hearts can only hide for so long.”
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