This review appeared in nb64.
This novel had me in its grip from the first page. We meet Tillie in 1991 when she is about to give birth to her first baby and apart from the fact that it is six weeks too early, she appears just like any other new mother. This is far from the truth.
Her story is desperately sad and far from normal. In the following chapters, the reader is led back to the 1970s when Tillie was just eight years old. On the surface, all is well with her family. Dad is a Colonel who specialises in designing missiles and her brother is much like an average 12 year old. Mara, her mother seems eccentric and free spirited, perhaps not the best match for an army officer who expects the household to run in an orderly and regimental way. Sadly, Mara is mentally ill and it is taking it's toll on the whole family, but Tillie most of all.
When her father is promoted to work at the Pentagon, Tillie is sent to stay with one of his female work colleagues whilst the new home is being prepared. On rejoining them, her mother is absent and no one will tell Tillie where she is. Tillie's frantic search for her begins.
Up From the Blue is thoughtfully written and depicts the struggle that families endure whilst in the grip of mental illness. Yes, Tillie is a handful, but mostly because she is so bright and artistic, traits she shares with her mother and why they are so close. Dad just strives for a normal life, something he will never attain with Mara.
I highly recommend this novel, a first for Susan Henderson, whose writing is quite beautiful and utterly convincing.