Summary and book reviews of Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson

Up from the Blue

A Novel

By Susan Henderson

Up from the Blue
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  • Paperback: Oct 2010,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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.

Excerpt
Up from the Blue

I was barred from school for the day because I’d been biting again. Whenever I pressed my teeth into one of my classmates, my teacher stopped the lesson and called, “Tillie, Tillie.” There was always a struggle as she tried to wrestle the hand or arm from my mouth, but I held on—fighting until the last string of spit released—because I liked to leave a mark.

Although I had nowhere to go, I got up early and sat on the front steps in my nightgown, knees together, bare feet arched to keep my legs off the cold concrete. American flags rose up the poles and flapped against the Sandia Mountains, pale gray in the distance, as lights popped on inside the little square houses of our neighborhood, each the same size with their well-mowed lawns and rectangular flower beds under the front windows.

Soon, the men from each home walked tall and purposefully out their doors, one after another, in their crisp blue uniforms or camouflage ...

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Introduction
When Tillie Harris goes into labor with her first child, nothing is right. Her husband is away on business, the boxes in her new home aren't unpacked, and the telephone isn't even connected yet. Forced to reach out to her estranged father for help, Tillie must face the painful memories she's been running from since she was a little girl—the memories of her own mother and the year that changed everything.

Tillie's childhood home was a manic and messy world with her mother, Mara, at its center. Some days brought dancing, dress-up, and laughter, while other left Mother weeping, drained, and unable to get out of bed. When Tillie's father takes a top job at the Pentagon and forces the family to move, and as Mara's ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Susan Henderson has gifted readers with a poignant story of family, resilience and hope "as we accompany Tillie on an emotional journey, which takes her to both the possibility of forgiveness and a future not determined by the bonds of her past".   (Reviewed by Jennifer Dawson Oakes).

Full Review Members Only (965 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Up from the Blue deftly portrays a family with contradictions we can all relate to—it's beautiful and maddening, hopeful and condemning, simple, yet like a knot that takes a lifetime to untangle. You will love it completely, even as it hurts you…it's a heartbreaking, rewarding story that still haunts me.

Author Blurb Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
A haunting tale of the terrible ways in which we fail each other; of the whys, the what ifs, and the what nows. This is not a book you'll soon forget.

Author Blurb Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble and Pictures of You
Haunting and unsettling, Up From the Blue's real alchemy is the way it uncovers the stories that alternately save us and keep us from our real truths. Incandescently written, this is a stunning debut with heart.

Booklist

Henderson shows remarkable compassion in her debut novel, an affecting portrait of depression through a child's eyes.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Beautiful, funny, sad, and complicated, Tillie's quest to understand her complex, troubled family is filled with lush descriptions of painfully emotional moments.

Library Journal

Henderson beautifully portrays this family in crisis through its most voluble and consistent member. Rapturous prose reveals young Tillie's heart as she yearns for the mother who will make her world better but who can't seem to mend her own tortured soul. A triumphant debut.

Reader Reviews
mainlinebooker

Don't be put off that this is a teen read
This should be marketed for adults as well. It feels like the type of book that will soar by word of mouth from those who have read this until it hits the NYTimes bestseller list. It was an incredibly haunting,tender story told from the perspective ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Desegregation Bussing
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down its judgment for Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas.  In their landmark unanimous (9-0) decision, the Court stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal", and thus ruled segregation to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. This ruling overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson "separate but equal" decision of 1896 which had reinforced segregation, paving the way for integration and the civil rights movement.

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, by the late 1960s many schools remained effectively segregated due to ...

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