Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson

Today, I am celebrating my friend’s novel debut. 

I’m celebrating with vigor because her novel, Up From the Blue, is a gorgeous, memorable story, one that took years to get told right.  It took years of writing and rewriting, and fending off rejections and close calls, and bleak days of nearly giving up, but my friend kept going.  She honored a vision. She listened to those shouting emotions that insisted she write this lung-stopping book.

I'd like to urge you to buy it (because it's affordable in paperback) or check it out at your library and experience the gasps and chills I experienced while reading it, and then again while rereading it.  When you're done, keep it close at hand. You'll pick it up from time to time, as I do, to savor paragraphs and sentences. It's that good.

Up From the Blue is a story about a family, and especially eight-year-old, Tillie Harris, whose mother has disappeared.  It’s about adult Tillie on the verge of giving birth to her first child looking back at that time in 1975, trying to make sense of what happened. I won't dare tell you, either.

But what especially fascinated me (me, the home-obsessed) is the house that Tillie's family lived in and how it contained a fierce emptiness, a hollow collection of spaces that echoed with her family’s pain and confusion and…love.

Rooms seem to lack furniture and purpose. Even the front door is painted shut.

In this neglected space, Tillie and her older brother cling to fragments of normalcy. They walk to school.  They walk back. But when they return home, who is there to greet them?  Their genius father is busy inventing weapons for the Pentagon, his mind distant as Saturn.  Tillie’s highly sensitive, brilliant mother is…well, you’ll just have to read this book to find out.   

Sample some (below)—then run and get it.

Chapter 1: A House with the Blue Door (From the novel, Up from the Blue)

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.

Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson. Available at Amazon, or your local indie bookstore.


  1. Wow - love that excerpt. Can't wait to read this book!!

  2. Billie.
    Exactly right. Susan's book is like a rope, twisting and pulling you forward to the truth--just like this paragraph.

    Thanks for letting me know your thoughts.

  3. I've been looking forward to reading this one and admire Susan for her perseverance in getting her novel out into the world of readers. I'll be catching her event next week at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Pittsburgh.

  4. Hi, Dory.
    Glad to hear you'll be attending Susan's reading. I'm hoping she'll come to Boston!