Tillie is about to become a mother. As in, right now. She is going into labor, several weeks early, and the terror of doing this alone causes her to reflect on her deeply troubled childhood. She reflects on the way her family dealt with her mother's severe depression, a secret to be hidden a way, both figuratively and literally. We spend time looking at life through her 8 year old eyes. And Tillie's life is messy; her family is odd, and everything about her just seems wrong. But nothing is as wrong as when Tillie starts to figure out the truth behind who made the choices regarding how the family came to be the way it did.
Finally a book that tells a story like this from the a different perspective. We always hear adults talk about their depression, and how it affects them, or how they think it affects their families. We hear teachers talk about troubled children in their classes, and speculate about the causes at home. But this, this is a story, from the perspective of the one hurt the most by it, the silent victim that we so rarely hear from. I wish more stories were told like this. Susan Henderson does an fantastic job of shedding light on the affects of mental illness of a parent on young children. One can not help but fall in love with Tillie, her innocence, her youth, her bites, her whims. If I were Tillie, I would bite too.
I love that the story did not focus on the easy and expected. Adult Tillie, mother to be, does not fixate on the idea of becoming like her mother. In fact, adult Tillie is really just a catalyst to get to child Tillie. We are only with adult Tillie the minimum amount of time necessary, because what happens in that 8th year is what is most important. And while it would be easy to simply have made Tillie's father a "bad guy", his character is much richer, and more complex than that. I worried, at times, about the implications with Anne, and was pleased that it never went where I thought it might.
All in all, a stunning, and powerfully dramatic story, that will cause me to pay a bit more attention to the Tillies I encounter every single day.
A touring review copy of this book was made available courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.