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Up from the Blue: A Novel Paperback – September 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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. Henderson shifts to the past and has young Tillie tell the story of how her father’s military position forces the family to move, after which her mother sinks into a deep depression and withdraws from her family’s life completely. Tillie cannot process why or how her mother has disappeared, so she places the blame on her father. Now, with the birth of her own daughter, adult Tillie must come to terms with how her father chose to protect her. Henderson shows remarkable compassion in her debut novel, an affecting portait of depression through a child’s eyes. --Aleksandra Walker


“[An] elegant debut…Henderson’s fascinating novel fearlessly examines the complexities of depression, romantic and filial love, and motherhood. Beautiful, funny, sad, and complicated, Tillie’s quest to understand her complex, troubled family is filled with lush descriptions of painfully emotional moments.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Inescapable sadness is threaded through with surprising moments of joy, in an intimate story that dispels the usual notions of victims and oppressors.” (Columbus Dispatch)

“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.” (Library Journal)

“Henderson shows remarkable compassion in her debut novel, an affecting portrait of depression through a child’s eyes.” (Booklist)

“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.” (Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants)

“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.” (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet)

“A rare literary page-turner full of shocking discoveries and twists. Susan Henderson has created a remarkable narrator—as memorable for her feistiness as for her tenderness. Up From the Blue is going to be one of this year’s major debuts.” (Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of I Am Not Myself These Days)

“Susan Henderson’s debut novel Up From the Blue is elegant and engrossing….Tillie Harris is both tender and tough, charming and filled with wonder by the difficulties she must overcome. Henderson is a talent to watch.” (Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology and Falling Through the Earth)

“Up From the Blue is a heart-wrenching, tender story with a mystery that kept my pulse racing. What a joy to discover Tillie Harris, the most memorable, charming and plucky narrator in fiction since Scout Finch.” (Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties)

“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.” (Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble and Pictures of You)

“Up from the Blue is a beautiful, haunting, spirited debut, charged with secrets and deep longing. Susan Henderson has written a moving love story, a portrait of that deep lasting love between mother and daughter.” (Julianna Baggott, author of Girl Talk, The Madam, and Which Brings Me to You)

“A remarkable debut, not just for the uncanny accuracy and charm of eight-year-old Tillie’s narrative voice, but for the way the characters reveal unexpected angles of themselves that somehow make them realer than real. Up from the Blue lingers in the mind.” (Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061984035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061984037
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Susan Henderson is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award. Her debut novel, UP FROM THE BLUE, was published by HarperCollins in 2010 and has been selected as a Great Group Reads pick (by the Women's National Book Association), an outstanding softcover release (by NPR), a Best Bets Pick (by BookReporter), Editor's Pick (by BookMovement), Editor's Choice (by BookBrowse), a Prime Reads pick (by HarperCollins New Zealand), a Top 10 of 2010 (by Robert Gray of Shelf Awareness), a 2012 Book Club Choice (by the American Library Association), and a favorite reads feature on the Rosie O'Donnell show. Now in its fourth printing, UP FROM THE BLUE is also available in Norwegian and Dutch. Susan blogs at and volunteers for Nile Rodgers' We Are Family Foundation. Her husband is a costume designer, filmmaker, and Chair of a university drama department. They have two teenagers--one in high school and another studying theoretical math at M.I.T.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on September 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 the military family of the 1970's I felt sure she must have been looking in the picture windows of the 1950's houses in my neighborhood of military families. She saw the strict father who must be saluted; the son who sits up very straight and says "yes sir". And there was the mother who gave up her dreams to follow her soldier husband around the country so he could advance in rank. Lastly, there was the little girl, confused and lonely, who had to learn to keep her emotions in little boxes on the shelf. And behind those tightly curtained windows, no one was allowed to know what went on there.

I wish Susan Henderson great success with this book, it is an absolute prize of a novel.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kat-Reader on September 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a dark and delicious book about a young woman's memories of growing up in her family. This is one of those families " wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." It is one of the many suffering families burdened with inscrutable secrets which family members are trained from early on not to go near or speak of. The disappearance of Tillie's beloved mother while Tillie is briefly away, and the fierce taboos that have instantly appeared to discourage anyone from speaking of it, are marvelously drawn. These things do happen in real families. Ms. Henderson explores the possibility , which many children fear is true, but which everyone assures them certainly is not, that their parent went away or appeared to no longer love them because of something inadequate or specifically unlovable about the child. But what if that actually was the reason? What if your mother really didn't love you much, and in fact, loved her life most when she was away from you. This eccentric, artistic, literary mother, whom Tillie adores, seems to have had a tremendous impact upon Tillie. But it is Tillie and not her mother whose energy is continually expended trying to spend time with her, despite the obstacle course thrown in her way by the entire family and even her house. Meanwhile the rest of the family, the stoical, functional, steadfast, dependable father is quite ignored and discredited, as is the peripheral brother who seems to do most things right, is living his own way through it, but never gets that level of attention and affection. If, as it was in my case, you may have grown up in a family with secrets and uncertain of the love of your parents and/or siblings, this novel will show you that you weren't alone. It's a ravishing story that will make you want to cry out for all of us.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By ~Kiwi~ VINE VOICE on August 31, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love books which grab you on the first page and don't let you go. This is one of them and it was truly an enjoyable read. Tillie is quite a handful as a child and her experiences and *feelings* were both memorable and profound. I loved the dialogue in her head and the way she thought. And she has a lot going on in that head of hers.

She watches as her brother and her father change their behavior as her mother comes up missing. It's one thing to lose a parent by death but quite another to lose them by illness. I had difficulty putting this book down and I will look forward to the author's next novel. She has a wonderful way with words and ideas. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sheri in Reho TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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