UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson is one of those books that as you read, you have more questions. Because of that, I want to be careful explaining the premise so nothing is given away prematurely. Here is a synopsis I'm borrowing from Goodreads:
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.
The beginning of this impressive debut novel starts out with Tillie as a grown woman expecting her first child, which sets up the story. Then we are transported back to 1975 when Tillie was eight years old. This is where most of the story is told to us by Tillie. More than anything Tillie only wants to know where her mother is and why won't anybody tell her anything. Her father is busy with his work all the time and her older brother, Phil, just wants her to leave him alone.
One of my favorite types of books are those told through a child's eye. There's so much honesty and raw emotions and that is exactly what this book delivers. Starting out, we don't really know where Tillie's mother is or what happened to her yet as the story unfolds, we draw our own assumptions. The anticipation of finding out kept me turning the pages (or hitting 'next page' on my Kindle, as it were). When the answer was revealed, even though I thought I had it figured out, the confirmation took my breath away.
Another reason I am so fond of this book is that in 1975 I was only three years older than Tillie and I could recall and relate to many of the things that were happening at the time. Being a child during that time myself, I understand the philosophy that parents had back then that children were to be seen and not heard. Important matters weren't discussed with children, they were expected to just adapt to things as they happened. I thought Susan Henderson did a fabulous job of taking us back to that time. It was a much simpler time and much of it made me very nostalgic and brought back memories of things I hadn't thought of in years.
When I made the connection between the title and what it meant, that was another memorable moment for me. I was like, 'Ah, I get it now.' Those are always favorites moments for me as a reader and, I think, a sign of a good book.
The characters were not many, but they were very memorable. I loved Tillie as a little girl, both mischievous and inquisitive, though as a grown woman and expectant mother, I did have concerns about her. My favorite character was Mr. Woodson, Tillie's teacher. The relationship she had with him was heartwarming and made me happy that she had an adult in her life that she looked up to and felt she could trust completely given everything that was happening in her life at the time.
Even though the author revealed things slowly in this book, she didn't jerk us around. The story moved along in a way that kept it fresh and made me want to keep reading. Susan Henderson is definitely an author I will be looking out for in the future.