Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson

Up From the BlueWhen Tillie goes into early labor, she’s just moved to a new town and her husband is out of the country. Panicked, she calls her estranged father. As he arrives, the novel shifts to the year that changed everything for Tillie, when she was 8.

Thus begins the heartbreaking tale of a girl whose mother slips into a deep, undiagnosed depression. Her father is working for the government when the family is moved to the Washington, D.C., area. Upon their arrival at their new home, the mother has mysteriously disappeared. Her father won’t talk about it and Tillie’s brother, Phil, assumes she has left them, but Tillie isn’t convinced. Has she been institutionalized? Or could she have been murdered by her father?

Losing her mother and not knowing what happened to her gives Tillie an unrelenting grief. Her father is no help or support to her because he is obsessively controlling and tone deaf in how to show love to his children. Additionally, he is unable to tolerate weakness in himself and others. Left on her own (with some little help from her brother, a singular friend, and an enormously likeable teacher), Tillie’s already quirky behavior becomes close to bizarre.

In time, Tillie’s mother is reintroduced into the family, but her depression never lifts and Tillie must face some hard truths about trust, reliability, and family love. This novel is entirely compelling. Beautifully rendered and absolutely rich in symbolism and metaphor, it is the perfect book to discuss seminal moments in life, how they affect growing up, and how people are able to move on.

Harper Paperbacks/HarperCollins; ISBN 978-0-06198-403-7; $13.99.
Up From the Blue: Reading Guide

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