Jill's Reviews > Up From the Blue

Up From the Blue by Susan  Henderson
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Oct 28, 2010

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Read from October 26 to 28, 2010

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 later, when everything is settled. But when she arrives, her mother has disappeared. And Tillie is left with feelings of confusion, pain, and inadequacy.

Had Ms. Henderson concentrated her story on Tillie’s struggle – as she does, indeed, do in the first half of the book – this would be a strong book indeed. However, she moves into plot twists that become increasingly surreal and, to my mind, inauthentic.

While Tillie imagines her mother murdered by her father or locked up in an asylum, the truth is much more complex. I will give no spoilers, except to say that the way the plot eventually plays out would be unlikely in real life. The children themselves would have guessed far earlier, neighbors would have been alerted, and interventions (including divorce) would have been the more likely conclusions. As a reader, I was unable to understand how Mara and Roy (the parents) came together to begin with, let alone everything that followed.

There is also a significant subplot where Tillie meets a black girl who is bused in from the projects, named Shirl. Despite the times – race relations were heating up and equality was being fought for – there are only the most clichéd references. Indeed, Shirl seemed like a black girl as envisioned by a white writer; there was something not quite convincing about her.

In the end, I felt that Ms. Henderson has ample talent but there are too many flaws for me to review more favorably.

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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I just ran across your review of this on Amazon. You got my vote, as did "booklove." I like dissenting reviews because they're more honest.


Jill Thanks! I wish I liked this more than I did, but ultimately, was bored by it...


message 3: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" You're usually so generous with your ratings. When I see that you've given something only three stars, I have to sit up and pay attention to what you didn't like about it.


Jill Well, the thing is, I rarely will finish a 3-star or less -- hate to struggle through a book just 'cos I started it. That one I HAD to read because I got it from Amazon Vine. But that's why my ratings are normally 4 or 5 stars. Life's too short for bad books :)


message 5: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Jill wrote: "I rarely will finish a 3-star or less -- hate to struggle through a book just 'cos I started it."
Ah, I see. Well, heck, some of us just go right ahead and review them without finishing them. ;-)
But I know what you mean. You wouldn't believe how many books I start that never even make it onto my Good Reads page.


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