3 reviews

Up from the Blue: A Novel
by Susan Henderson

Published: 2010-09-21
Paperback : 336 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 3 members

 “Elegant and engrossing….Henderson is a talent to watch.” < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

—Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology

 “This is not a book you’ll soon forget.”

—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

The gripping debut novel from Litpark.com founder and Pushcart Prize-nominee Susan ...

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 “Elegant and engrossing….Henderson is a talent to watch.” < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

—Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology

 “This is not a book you’ll soon forget.”

—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

The gripping debut novel from Litpark.com founder and Pushcart Prize-nominee Susan Henderson, Up From the Blue is a dazzling tour de force that unfolds against the backdrop of 1970s America—a tumultuous era of desegregation, school busing, and the early rise of modern-day feminism. The story of an imaginative young girl struggling to make sense of her mother’s mysterious disappearance, Up From the Blue is enthralling fiction that delves into complex family relationships, in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Katrina Kittle, and Laura Kasischke.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


The House with the Blue Door

I was barred from school for the day because I'd been biting again. Whenever I pressed my teeth into one of my classmates, my teacher stopped the lesson and called, "Tillie, Tillie." There was always a struggle as she tried to wrestle the hand or arm from my mouth, but I held on—fighting until the last string of spit released—because I liked to leave a mark. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the Publisher:

UP FROM THE BLUE features a frame story (a story within a story). How do the chapters about grown Tillie enrich the story of 8-year-old Tillie? How would the novel be different if the author had only written about young Tillie?

Eight-year-old Tillie is introduced as a biter who liked to leave a mark. What was your initial impression of her? What do you think she craved?

Describe the difference between how Phil and Tillie experienced the same events. Which character was more sympathetic to you? And does it surprise you that the same events could impact siblings so differently?

Do you think it's realistic that no one knew what was happening inside the Harris family's home? Why do you suppose Phil and Tillie didn't tell a neighbor or a teacher?

Throughout the novel, Tillie made references to the neighbors who seemed to live such peaceful lives, but through her contact with the other children, she became aware of divorce, bullying, and racism. In what way is it helpful to see Tillie's situation in the context of the larger community?

What did you learn about Tillie by the people she's drawn to and how close she allows herself to get to them?

When Tillie discovered her mother in the secret room, did you believe what was happening?

Why do you think Mara was so alive in the secret room but hardly functioning when she lived with the rest of the family?

Were you surprised to learn why Mara disappeared? And were you frustrated with the characters for their actions or inactions?

What was the significance of the ruby cup to Tillie, and how did that change near the end of the book?

Mara talked about the woman in the golden gown to communicate her dreams and her regrets. Where is the line between self fulfillment and sacrifice for others?

Eight-year-old Tillie's story ended with the family walk. Did this gain significance when you read the final chapter of the book?

How did you find the final scene between grown Tillie and her father? What was your reaction to Tillie's statement, "I want him to be as powerful a father as he is a scientist"?

By the end of the story, Tillie seemed more open to reconnecting with her father, while Phil had gone his own way. What would you have done?

What kind of mother do you think Tillie will be? What makes you feel hopeful or pessimistic about her future? Do you think children from unstable upbringings struggle about starting families of their own?

What does the title mean to you?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from the Author:

UP FROM THE BLUE is the story of eight-year-old Tillie Harris whose mother mysteriously vanishes.

My inspiration to write this novel was the persistence of this little girl who became the narrator of my book. I kept waking up at night with the image of her standing outside a closed door, afraid to turn the knob. Over time, I got a clearer sense of who she was—a biter, an extrovert with no friends, and afraid of the person she loved the most.

I wanted to give her a voice and let her tell her story. And she led me right to the questions and issues that gnaw at me: the fear that the people you love may not love you the way you hope, the battle between following your bliss and being there for others, the failures we make against those we love and how we live with those failures, the jagged path to forgiveness.

Writing this book healed something deeply in me. I learned a lot about love and acceptance of (and even a kind of a glory in) people's shortcomings. What I hope is that this story will heal something in my readers, too.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Wow! Really Like It"by litimberlake (see profile) 03/31/11

Our book club really liked it. Messed up family. Very sad. Very well written and easy read!

  "Good read but a cast of dsyfunctional characters."by pirkoda (see profile) 01/12/11

  "Up from the Blue"by nanovsky (see profile) 11/17/10

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