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Up From the Blue

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,549 ratings  ·  462 reviews
An extraordinary debut from a talented new voice, Up from the Blue untangles the year in Tillie's life that changed everything: 1975, the year her mother disappeared.

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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 21st 2010 by Harper Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,549 ratings  ·  462 reviews

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Susan Henderson
Jun 27, 2010 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
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. ...more
Debbie Ann
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
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.
Sep 27, 2010 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
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sara Strand
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I selected this book to read because:
1) it’s the first novel by Susan Henderson
2) I enjoyed my recent read “The Flicker of Old Dreams” by same author (2nd novel)

Not that far into it, I realized I had read this book years ago, but could not remember everything, so I kept on reading.

This one is not quite as good as Henderson’s second novel, however, it takes us into some uncomfortable territory. It’s told in two segments, one now and one then. In the now, Tillie, now an adult, married and hugely
Chuck Erion
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Michele Harrod
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Cheri Rice
Jun 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tillie is an unruly 8-year-old whose father is an Air Force colonel developing top-secret missile systems, while her mother is depressed and completely unable to function. Tillie's brother Phil is the type of kid who responds to stress by being as perfect as he possibly can, while Tillie instead acts out to achieve any kind of attention she can, even if it's negative.

I think it's easy for modern readers to be frustrated that Tillie's father never sought any kind of medical help for his wife. But
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
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
Dec 05, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Oct 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Haunting and powerful. Just like the first book I read of Henderson’s, the main character is so deeply developed you feel like you could reach out and touch them. I was completely engaged throughout - only took me about 24 hours to read it. If you’re looking to meet a new favorite character that makes your face smile and your heart ache, I definitely recommend getting to know Tillie.
Kathleen Rodgers
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Up From the Blue with a lump in my throat and a highlighter in my hand. The story, narrated by Tillie Harris, the daughter of an Air Force Officer, moves back and forth in time between 1975 and 1991. We mostly meet the family members through the viewpoint of eight-year-old Tillie, who’s trying to puzzle together the missing pieces in a military family where things are not what they seem.

At times I thought I would go mad as my emotions swung wildly back and forth with everything that was
had to do a speed read through what I consider drivel
tried it after good reviews on this author, so Kathy: Please read this before you try won't like it
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Disturbing subject matter, especially for anyone who has experienced mental illness in a close family member. The writing is gorgeous and I couldn't put the book down. ...more
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
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! ...more
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hauntingly, heartbreakingly beautiful. Very will written and engaging. I loved it.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
An emotional book displaying how mental health splinters a family. Most of the narrative is set in the 70's when Tillie is 8 years old and grappling with why her mother (and family) is so different from others. Rather than seeking help the issue is hidden and kept as a secret from the outside world. This is definitely not a happy feel good book but rather a raw look at the feelings of a little girl who aches for her mothers love. ...more
Anne W. Sweeney
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book you can’t put down

So much of this book resonated with me. The location bc I grew up in suburban Maryland not far from the cabin John bridge. The 70s references. The family dynamic wasn’t like mine but I had dysfunction too and throw in mental illness. The father daughter thing hit a cord. I really could not stop reading. I can’t tell you how I rooted for momma. This is the authors first novel...she knows how to spin a tale. Such a great read.
Maggie Ginsberg
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Besides creating a lovely and lyrical book with a satisfying arc, Susan Henderson has pulled off the nearly impossible task of writing a novel from the perspective of an 8-year-old girl. Tillie is a terrific character, and a believable one. I found this book after reading (and adoring) Henderson's new book, The Flicker of Old Dreams. Up From the Blue was actually published in 2010, and is such an impressive debut. Anxiously awaiting whatever she writes next. ...more
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
A wonderful story of a dysfunctional family told from the perspective of 8 year old Tillie. Tillie sees her Mother as a person who loves her very much but lives under the thumb of her revered scientist husband. This novel covers the period of time when busing was a part of the country's culture, along with the prelude to war. The reader see's Tillie's mother as a hippie type person, but it takes a year for the child to realize that her mother is sick, probably with untreated bi-polar symptoms. T ...more
MJ Carnino
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our bookclub’s book for this month. Tillie’s character was one you felt you knew as you joined her journey and got into her head. The story a reminder that you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. Be kind. Glad we happened across this book.
Julie Sucha Anderson
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Most interesting read. The characters so very vivid. The story heart-breaking and dark, yet I had to think of what we all go through in our childhoods, to survive and carve out our lives. I await this author's next book. ...more
Rachel McSpadden
Beautiful reading!

I loved the future and the past telling the story. I disliked nothing. The five stars rating was how much I enjoyed this book I would recommend this beautifully written book to anyone who has dealt with mental illness. A wonderful book to read!
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Susan Henderson is a Hawthornden International Fellow, a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Award. She is the author of the novels Up from the Blue and The Flicker of Old Dreams, both published by HarperCollins. Her latest is a Montana Book Award Honor Book and winner of the High Plains Book Award for Fiction, the WILLA Literary Award for Contempora ...more

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“But truth is stubborn.

Our nature, our secret hearts can only hide for so long.”
“Sometimes the easiest thing to do is nothing. You just make do. Keep your mouth closed and hope all the rattling goes away.” 4 likes
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