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I don’t know what better review you can give to a book than I couldn’t put it down.  I read this in two days and only because I had to sleep or I would have finished it the day I started. While I finished it quickly I certainly didn’t rush through it because I wanted to savor every word. Susan Henderson’s debut novel  is an impressive start to her writing career as far as I’m concerned.

She tells the story of Tillie Harris and the year that changed her life forever. While moving into her new home Tillie goes into premature labor. With her husband out of town Tillie is forced to call her estranged father for help.  In all the panic and anxiety we flashback to 1975, the year Tillie’s already complicated falls completely apart.

Eight year old Tillie is erratic, impulsive, and desperately trying to keep her emotionally fragile mother from spinning out of control. Her father deals with this with military fashion, telling his wife to pull herself together while trying to keep order inside the house and appearances outside the house. Tillie’s stoic older brother shuts out all the chaos and becomes the perfect little soldier. Tillie is temperamental and emotional and heartbreaking in her efforts to save her mother.

Through Tillie’s young eyes things are black and white, there are heroes and villains. But,there are many subtle moments in this book; though we see events from Tillie’s perspective Henderson also shows things as they really are. There are no real heroes, no real villains, only people stumbling through a sad situation. Everyone of these characters had my sympathies.

The story doesn’t always go where you think it will go. There were times I questioned what was really happening. The changing world of the 70’s is shown through Tillie as she makes friends with the little girl bussed into her school. I loved that there were no giant banners on this only Tillie’s own experiences highlighting the issue.

There’s so much going on in this story, there’s sadness and loss, happiness and humor, and most of all there’s hope and the ability to come through in the end. While there isn’t a typical happy ending there is a happy ending. I enjoyed this book tremendously and if this is what we can expect from Susan Henderson I see a big stack of books to add to my “to be read” list. (Full disclosure: I received this book free from Harper Collins through Book Club Girl’s website)

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