Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review - Up From the Blue: A Novel by Susan Henderson

Title: Up From the Blue: A Novel
Author: Susan Henderson
Year: 2010
Page: 336
Genre: Fiction - Family

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Possibly
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the Library

Summary (from
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.

First Sentence:
It starts like a tingling at the top of my abdomen.  

Why did I pick this book?
Stephanie The Bookworm had a GREAT review (5/5!) of this book - I love that she said it is full of emotion and twists. I need some good reads right now so I picked this up from the library, even though I have a big stack already from the library... okay so some of you may not think it's a fun thing to read emotional books... but I much prefer an emotional one than a "light" read.

My thoughts:
  • I am a bit torn about this book. It was a fast read, and I was able to finish it within my normal 2-3 days time frame. I do enjoy Henderson's writing, as it was quite engaging.
  • I did like the 8 years old Tillie (in 1975), even though she wasn't the best student. The story jumped between 1975 and 1991 when Tillie was pregnant. The majority of the book focused on Tillie's childhood. However, I felt like there was a gap between 1975 and 1991 that didn't really explain Tillie's behavior in 1991. She almost seemed like a different person. I didn't quite understand her attitude towards her dad in 1991, when back in 1975 she had finally had some insights about her mother (sorry can't really elaborate without spoilers). Sometimes the 8 years old Tillie almost seemed too mature and wise beyond her age, and then at 24 years old, she seemed to have gotten more immature
  • Tillie's friendship with Hope and Shirl also seemed a bit half-developed, especially Shirl's. It almost seemed like there were going to be some side-plots going on, but got forgotten. I did like Mr Woodman, Tillie's teacher who was quite understanding, and just the type of teacher we need more
  • I also thought there was another side-plot going on with Anne, Tillie's dad's secretary, as I thought she might play a bigger role but didn't
  • So apart from Tillie, all the other characters didn't really get to develop (especially the mother's story) and just felt a bit short. I also thought Tillie's love for her mother and brother was touching
  • The "Cootie" story about Tillie's parents was cute, and I wish it had gone into a bit deeper
  • I read a review that said this book, which some thought almost read like a memoir, was often compared to the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I have to say I much prefer The Glass Castle - there was more of a story, whereas this book was more character-driven. While I like Henderson's writing fine, there was just something about Walls' writing that really, really captivated you and drew you in. You laughed and cried with her, and admired how she turned out the way she did. I should go read her second book, Half Broke Horses. While I felt for Tillie and sympathized with her, I didn't laugh or cry with her.
  • Overall, not a bad debut. But I thought it could go a little deeper and let the characters developed a bit more. The adult Tillie part didn't add much to the story. Also the big twist of the story wasn't that realistic either... I guess I was just a bit disappointed that the story wasn't quite as depressing as I'd hoped... (you know, every so often you just want a sad story to have a good cry? And be grateful that you have a pretty good life after all?)

    "... and a notebook of poems that were better in my head than they are on paper." (p1)

    Who you want to be out in the world is hardly ever the same as who you need to be at home. (p242)

    Rating: 3 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading


    1. Great review, I read Stephs also and was excited because this one is on my Wishlist.

      I look forward to what I think now.

      Please read my last review, it has you written all over it, actually I need to email you.

      I totally agree about emotional reads being great ones.

    2. @Marce - I can't wait to hear what you think! I guess we all have different thresholds - what makes someone else emotional, may not be emotional enough for me; and vice versa. I figured an emotional story means I am invested in the characters - that I care about them (even if they aren't real!) and that said a lot for someone who aren't usually interested in character-driven books! Thanks for your email btw!