Up From the Blue – Susan Henderson
The novel begins when Tillie, the protagonist, goes into labor while her husband is away, and she must turn to her estranged father for support. But we soon move to 1975 America where the story truly kicks into gear, as we meet Tillie Harris as an 8-year old girl whose life as a service brat has its ups and downs, mainly due to the slow disintegration of her family as her free-spirited and eccentric mother slowly sinks into mental illness. When her father abruptly moves to Washington DC, Tillie is sent away and when she returns and moves into her new home, she discovers that her mother is nowhere to be seen. Forced to deal on her own with societal changes like the rise of the feminist movement, school busing, and new friends in an unfamiliar neighborhood, she struggles until an unexpected discovery brings her hope and comfort.
What happens next will confuse and eventually amaze you as Tilllie hides an amazing secret, only to have it eventually discovered by first her brother and then her father. I won’t reveal the denouement here, but I challenge you not to gasp at the end of Chapter 21 when a plot twist you didn’t see coming is revealed.
On a personal note: A few years ago in a workshop, I was asked to name a favorite read that people weren’t very familiar with and I mentioned this book. A man seated next to me leaned over and said, “I actually came up with that title.” Turned out he’d known the author and brainstormed titles with her. It really is a small world sometimes.