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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Our secret hearts can only hide for so long"
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...
Published on September 3, 2010 by Amazon Customer

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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Never Gets off the Ground
A publisher friend of mine gave me this book to read last week. She wouldn't tell me what she thought, but she did say she needed a "reality check." I read the book, and told her - if your reality is "what's the big deal," then I am with you.

Tillie Harris is battling demons - in this case, her mother's mental breakdown, and the strange way her family,...
Published on September 21, 2010 by booklove


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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Our secret hearts can only hide for so long", September 3, 2010
This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Chocolate for the Soul, September 26, 2010
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This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (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
5.0 out of 5 stars "Keep a lookout for your Mother.", August 31, 2010
By 
Kiwi (...outside the norm...) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
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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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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Never Gets off the Ground, September 21, 2010
This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
A publisher friend of mine gave me this book to read last week. She wouldn't tell me what she thought, but she did say she needed a "reality check." I read the book, and told her - if your reality is "what's the big deal," then I am with you.

Tillie Harris is battling demons - in this case, her mother's mental breakdown, and the strange way her family, particularly her father, a hard nosed military man who develops weapons of mass destruction, deals with it. The story is told in first person, with Tillie both a chlid re-living her past, and as a young woman who is in a hospital with her father (who she hates) as she is about to have her own child.

Ms. Henderson story line felt like an aircraft that never really took flight. It tried, starting off full throttle with a close first person snap shot of a woman in fear that something was going wrong with her pregnancy, but we quickly see that this woman (Tillie all grown up) is fairly self-centered, callous, and probably a little phobic. Next scene, Tillie is a child and her family has secrets. One of them, that behind their front door (sealed shut with blue paint) is a mother out of touch with reality. She spends her days locked in her room. Occasionally she comes out to read to her daughter, mostly she does not. All promising details. But for numerous reasons, this book just falls flat.

My main complaint is that the characters never really change. Tillie was a self-centered willful child, and remained so into adulthood. The father was a one-dimentsional heartless monster and remained so throughout the novel. The brother was an aloof obliging soul, and remained so throughout the novel. The mother was a suicidal depressive, and, of course, remained so.

I wanted to care about Tillie, the mother, and son. I even wanted to care about the father, but I was never given the opportunity to know them deep enough to do so. Tillie's childhood observations were neither informed enough to give me that level of concern, or worldly enough to do so. And the adult Tillie was so self-absorbed she never offered a mature take on her childhood. What felt missing in this novel was an adult voice - a narration that went beyond superficial story telling. Without this, the book felt empty and lifeless.

I give it two stars instead of one, because the premise was good.

It is not a book I would recommend, though.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is like growing up all over again, March 26, 2011
By 
Madeline Posner (Kings Park, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
This is a truly moving story. You see life through Tillie's eyes, like growing up all over again but with a different tragic family. You can't help but think about the similarities to your own life, how relationships are complex and that there comes a time when every child discovers that his mom and dad do not have all the answers. This is one of those inspirational pieces that you think about for days because you know there is an important life message included. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to walk in another family's shoes and learn from the experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and emotional, February 1, 2011
By 
Laura de Leon (Silicon Valley, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
I found Up From the Blue an incredibly gripping, emotional ride. I wonder whether those that don't have some experience with depression or other mental illness in their lives will feel the same impact.

This book was all about the characters, who became very real to me.

Tillie's mom lives in her own world. Her children fit into that world- sometimes. Tillie's dad is a military man. He has no patience for his wife, and only slightly more for his children, as he believes that life should always be orderly.

Tillie's brother takes after his dad, but has just enough of his mother in him to make it difficult to live up to his father's exacting standards. Tillie takes after her mother, but unlike her mother, she still wants- needs- to be part of the outside world as well.

Tillie's mother seems to be losing her grasp on even her own world, the one she alone inhabits. And then the family moves, and Tillie's mother is nowhere to be found. And no one is supposed to talk about it.

My heart hurt for young Tillie as she struggled with a very difficult family dynamic, and with difficulties with her peers. I also had a lot of sympathy for her mother, although I think many readers may not, particularly as the book progresses. Tillie's father and brother were also interesting characters, even if they weren't as compelling as the women the book focused on.

I was very impressed when the book went down several paths I didn't foresee (I'm not going to talk about them so as not to spoil them for potential readers).

My perceptions of the characters changed significantly over the course of the book, but the characters stayed true to themselves. Tillie and her brother changed as they grew up. They were certainly influenced by their parents, and by the world outside, but they also had to be the people they were.

My changes in my views of the parents came more from learning more about them than from changes in the characters. As time passes, we learn more and more about each of them, and the challenges each is dealing with.

This story was amazingly well told, I'm glad I read it. I think it could make a good choice for reading group discussion, as I think different people will have different perceptions of the characters, and there will be a lot to talk about here.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars just one minor detail..., March 24, 2011
By 
S. Gillette (Virginia, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
I really liked this book. It was well written, and Ms. Henderson does a good job of painting a picture of Tillie, who loves her mom unconditionally. Other reviewers have thoroughly described the plot. The one thing that irritated me was toward the end, where it's revealed that the mom was drugging the "special drink" in the ruby cup with...Sudafed. Sudafed? Really? The effects of the drink, when described earlier in the book, are really more consistent with a central nervous system depressant (i.e. Benadryl) than a decongestant like Sudafed. Unless Tillie had some atypical reaction to the Sudafed, it would not have made her feel sleepy, or woozy, or unable to get up and function in the morning when she wakes up to find her family packing their stuff to move. A cup of tea mixed with Sudafed, given to a child, would be a lot more likely to send them bouncing off the walls, unable to sleep. Anyway, as good as the book was, this was a minor detail that irked me, because a single phone call to a pharmacist or physician could have educated the author about the effects of Sudafed. Otherwise, highly recommended.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Mother, October 28, 2010
This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
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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,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.

It appears from other reviews that I am in the minority with my assessment. I can only state that reading is an individual process and I respect my fellow reviewers' opinions. 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written and heartfelt first novel., October 10, 2010
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This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and lyrical: a wonderful debut, September 25, 2010
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This review is from: Up from the Blue: A Novel (Paperback)
Susan Henderson's haunting and lyrical debut joins the ranks of other great novels focusing on family members with mental illnesses, such as Ron McLarty's "The Memory of Running" or Evan Hunter's "The Moment She Was Gone." But Henderson's novel takes the topic on from a new and even more poignant perspective: that of Tillie, a young girl coping with her mother's chronic depression and mania. Henderson also shows us Tillie as an adult - an expectant mother forced to reconnect with her estranged father. As you might expect, emotions run high throughout the book, but this is not just some chick-flick tearjerker. Just when you begin to settle into Henderson's lush and sensitive prose style, she throws a shocking twist at you that seems to come, well, right out of the blue. Henderson's ability to craft a gut-wrenching revelation is matched and complemented by her delicate and poetic touch, with lines like "where people with heavy pockets drag close to the earth" and "sleeves like angel wings" flowing like music on the page. Henderson is both an artist and a storyteller, and I look forward to the next spell she weaves.
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Up from the Blue: A Novel
Up from the Blue: A Novel by Susan Henderson (Paperback - September 21, 2010)
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