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Up from the Blue: A Novel

1 rating: 4.0
A book by Susan Henderson

When Tillie goes into labor while her husband is overseas, she must turn to her estranged father for help. Seeing him brings up painful memories. Her childhood was defined by the conflict between her flighty, moody mother and taciturn, controlling father. … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Susan Henderson
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
1 review about Up from the Blue: A Novel

A beautifully written and heartfelt first novel.

  • Oct 10, 2010
When I was a little girl, I would lie in bed listening to my parents argue in the next room. Sometimes, I heard things no child should ever have to hear, especially from her own parents. While my childhood may not have been quite as dramatic as that of Tillie, the little girl who narrates Up From the Blue, I could very much relate (sometimes too much) to this story about a fractured family trying to move through life acting as if everything is okay when it is anything but.

Tillie's father is a strict and ambitious military man with a burgeoning career that sometimes takes precedence over the family's needs. He wants everything to be orderly and unemotional at home, just like at work. Tillie's mom is an emotional wreck of a human being, who is more like another child in the family than a mother or wife. Tillie's older brother, Phil, is an awkward pre-teen who tries to be the good soldier his father wants him to be by suppressing his emotions, which sometimes burst forth in small acts of brutality against his baby sister. I was sometimes the target of my brother's pent-up rage so this, too, resonated with me. Like Phil, deep inside, I knew my brother loved me...he just had to have (what felt to him like) an appropriate way to vent his emotions.

This story pushed a lot of buttons for me--parents who are more concerned about appearances (either "What will the neighbors think?" or "How would this impact on my career?") than about taking proper care of their children (or each other), parents who shouldn't have become a parent because they are not emotionally equipped to be one, children who don't get to be children because of parental drama, children taking the blame for bad parenting or broken relationships, etc.

You might think of this button-pushing as a negative, but I don't. The book made me FEEL and, when you grow up like Tillie (and me), you don't always have the luxury of getting to feel your feelings (and God forbid we get to express them openly!). Sure, reading this book made me think of my childhood and, sure, that was painful, but in a cathartic way and not in a poking-at-an-open-wound way. I turn 58 today, so those wounds aren't as open as they once were, but that doesn't mean there isn't a scar.

This isn't a happy story, and if you're the type who shrinks from reading anything uncomfortable or painful, this isn't your book. While the characters may be a bit stereotypical at times and similar stories may have been told before, this one is beautifully written and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to read it.

I heartily recommend this book because not only happy stories deserve to be told.

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