Title: Up from the Blue
Author: Susan Henderson (@LitPark)
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Source: Review copy provided by Harper Paperbacks
Tillie is going into labor. She’s just moved to a new place, her husband’s away on business, and she’s only 34 weeks pregnant. She turns to her father in desperation and the not-so-pleasant memories of her childhood come flooding back.
When Tillie is 8 years old, her father moves the family across the country from New Mexico to Washington, D.C. When Tillie arrives (after her father and brother have settled in), her mother is nowhere to be found. While Tillie’s mother has been far from perfect, Tillie has always adored her and her unexplained disappearance consumes her life. When she finds out the secret, Tillie and her family must finally face their situation head on.
And here comes the gushing. Reading Up from the Blue was absolutely amazing. I adored it. I always find it so refreshing to start reading a book that I have no expectations for and find that I am falling quickly in love.
Up from the Blue took me awhile to finish but it’s the kind of book I could have stayed up all night to read. I was sucked into Tillie’s world from the beginning. The novel reads a lot like a memoir and I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction. Tillie is not a precocious child narrator. Although she does her best, she does not understand the things that are happening around her. And this just makes the novel all the more heartwrenching.
It is beautifully written. I fell in love with Henderson’s style right away and I would often find myself rereading a passage or a sentence in awe of her ability to string it together. Her language captures the emotions Tillie is feeling while still allowing us to understand what some of the other characters are thinking. Through Tillie’s eyes, we can still understand her brother’s distrust of their mother, her teacher’s genuine concern for her well-being, and her father’s reliance on rules and order. Many books written in first person (especially with a younger, less reliable narrator) are unable to do this as successfully as Henderson has here.
This is one of those books that I am going to beg you to read and then come back and discuss with me (do I spy another candidate for Top Ten of 2010?). Please, please, please go pick up a copy. I mean, have I ever led you astray?
My brother worked so hard to listen and to do what he was told, but while he knew more of what was happening than I did, he was never a part of what was happening. He was so quick to understand and cooperate that he faded into the background. You could see this even when we were in public together. The four of us could stand in line at a restaurant, and the waiter would ask, “Table for three?” p. 33*
Her questions made me feel like Alice falling down the long hold, and the world I knew disappearing too fast to grab hold of it. p. 132
I sat closest to him, and sometimes I touched my finger to his brown shoes, wishing he could know how much it mattered to me those times he tried to help. All through the day, I checked Mr. Woodson’s desk to see if he’d eaten the apple. I imagined the smile I’d carved floating inside of him, all safe. p. 213
*Page numbers refer to the Advance Reader’s Edition and may differ in the final book.