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Up from the Blue

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,952 Ratings  ·  389 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.
Jul 19, 2016 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: highlyrecommend
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
Sep 27, 2010 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 29, 2015 Rossy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: one-star
I'm so sorry but i absolutely HATED the main character, Tilly.
And I think the father managed the situation not in a perfect way, but tried his best, considering when the story took place. I don't think Tilly had any right to hate him as much as she did.
Jun 07, 2011 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2011 Chuck Erion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novels
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
Jul 24, 2012 Sara Strand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. This book starts off in the present (or 1991). We meet Tillie as she's unpacking her and her husbands new house. But oh shit, she goes into labor- 6 wks early! SHe's not ready and her husband is away on business. She stumbles to her neighbors and calls the only number she can remember- since everything is packed away- her father's.
But she's not cool with her dad.
And with many chapters to follow we find out why.
The bulk of the story takes place when Tillie is 8. She lives with her mot
Michele Harrod
Feb 06, 2011 Michele Harrod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 16, 2017 Lynn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book opens with the protagonist going into premature labor. She reluctantly calls her estranged father because she had no one else to call. Then we learn about her circa 1970s childhood; demanding controlling father and mentally ill mother. The book held my interest but I did not like how it dealt with mental illness.

The father does not seek treatment for his depressed wife for fear of hurting his career. Suicide seems to be the only option the mother has left and the children become more d
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
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
Jun 28, 2011 Cheri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 11, 2011 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  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
Mar 23, 2015 Anne rated it it was amazing
Hauntingly, heartbreakingly beautiful. Very will written and engaging. I loved it.
Jan 01, 2011 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2010 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2011 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tricia Dower
Feb 07, 2011 Tricia Dower rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I found this a muddle in every way. The author states it takes place in Montgomery County, MD (where I live and grew up) and tries to depict segregation, busing and children from the "bad side" of MoCo to the area where the main character lives, occuring in 1976-77. No historical grounds for believing that children were bussed from some "slum" in Moco (??) to Potomac. Sorry. Can't get passed that. Perhaps she should pick up George Pelecanos and get a taste of how an author really understands res ...more
Jul 19, 2010 Cathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2014 Kacy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this book, and at times I almost did. It was like trying to be friends with someone who is obnoxious but doesn't mean to be, which is exactly how I'd describe the main character. I felt for her and could empathize with her, but I wanted more growth or self awareness, and just didn't get it. Perhaps this was intentional, but I didn't think it really worked. The story itself was compelling, and it kept me reading, I just didn't get the connection I would have liked. 3.5 stars.
Robin Slick
Jul 14, 2010 Robin Slick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 will take its place among the classics on your bookshelf.

The writing is magnificent; the story and the narrator will leave you speechless.
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.
Oct 27, 2010 Fredsky rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Laura Coia
Jan 01, 2011 Laura Coia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing Amazing Amazing the first thing i did after reading this book is to text my friends to get a copy really brillant read,after you read this book you definately stand taller.
Jessica Keener
Sep 24, 2011 Jessica Keener rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning in every way. A gorgeous, heart-tugging story that is infused with wisdom, compassion and startling observations of character and sensibility. Love it!
Nov 10, 2012 Robin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. I liked this well enough and the writing was very good but wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it.
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Author of UP FROM THE BLUE (HarperCollins), a 2010 Great Group Reads pick, blogger at, mother of two boys, two dogs, and two cats.

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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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