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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  15,172 ratings  ·  2,499 reviews
This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swa ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Algonquin Books
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Esther-odessa Go ahead at your own risk...The parts that I enjoyed were the portions from her mother's POV. The rest was too much and a bit sickening. I can relate…moreGo ahead at your own risk...The parts that I enjoyed were the portions from her mother's POV. The rest was too much and a bit sickening. I can relate with Rachel because she didn't know exactly where racially she fit in but that's it...(less)
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez32 Candles by Ernessa T. CarterPerfect Peace by Daniel BlackThe Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. DurrowBefore You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans
2010's Best African American Literature
4th out of 24 books — 127 voters
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102nd out of 1,252 books — 2,351 voters

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Aug 12, 2013 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: blog
It's easy to see why there's so much fuss over this novel. Much as Nella Larsen did in her exemplary novel Passing and the novel Quicksand, Heidi Durrow explores both interracial and intraracial racism in a compelling and unique way. Throughout the novel, there are several nods to Larsen (the mother named Nella, the protagonist who is half black and half Danish, the exploration of racial tensions in America when compared with the more colorblind European societies, the epigraph taken from Passin ...more
I began The Girl Who Fell From the Sky like most people, I think, wanting to know the story of a biracial girl with light skin and blue eyes who is the only survivor of a horrific family tragedy, the details of which are laid out with each page. I was enamored with Rachel's voice and her life after the accident, and more intrigued with what came before. Durrow's writing is superb, how it tied the details. By the novel's end,however, I somehow felt some details were left undone. Like what happens ...more
It was just okay. The writing felt forced. The characters had the potential to be interesting but sometimes were too one-dimensional, or Durrow didn't emphasize the dynamics between them. I also came to this with the understanding that biracialism would be an overriding theme, and in fact, the book jacket summary promises that Rachel will "confront" her mixed identity. (Maybe I should ignore book jacket summaries - they tend to be misleading.) Although the book references biracialism several tim ...more
Apr 07, 2010 ConnieK rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to ConnieK by: goodreads friend; USA Today; Bookmarks mag
It's been 3 days since I finished this book and I can't get it out of my head. The tragedy involving the main character is devastating and just when I thought I was sure that I knew what really happened, more details came out to make me question the event and the motivations behind it. Separate from the mystery of the "event", I love the way the author presented the characters and the way each of them perceived and dealt with the racial issues - some profound and some of a more every-day nature ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
Jackie says:

It says a lot that this debut novel has already won The Bellwether Prize (an award for literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships). It says a lot that Durrow is being compared to Toni Morrison, Nella Larsen and the early Langston Hughes. What can't be said until you read it for yourself is how deeply the reader will grow to care for Rachel, the lone survivor of her mother's attempted murder/suicide (her broth
You must read this book. You must.

Last night I went to Powell’s Bookstore to hear Heidi Durrow talk about her debut novel, “The Girl Who Fell From The Sky”. It was the first time in three years that I cried in front of strangers. And it was because I identified with the character Rachel. Not the story of her mixed roots, but of the grief that she keeps silent and how it affects her life. When Rachel says, “I am not the new girl. But I will pretend.”, it hit me hard. I know that feeling. As I lef
Rachel is the daughter of an African-American G.I. and a Danish woman. Following a family tragedy, she moves to Portland, Oregon and lives with her paternal grandmother, a change which challenges her understanding of her identity and place in the world. The concept and set up for this book are wonderful, and the first half of the book tensely builds promise after promise, interweaving multiple characters’ perspectives on one tragic event. The book, however, fails to deliver on most of those prom ...more
Eileen Souza
An unusual story of hurt and how different people handle who they are and how they came to be.

It is the story of Rachel Morse, a young girl who grows up to be a young woman throughout the story. She is a child of a danish mother and african american father/military man. You learn from the beginning that there was an "accident" from which Rachel is the only survivor, and from there moves into her paternal grandmother's house where she experiences a bit of an identity crisis - where she must have
I got this home at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday and read 1/2 of it my first night. I simply could not put it down until I just had to sleep. I am loving it, though it is so tragic. Can't wait to get back to it tonight.

This book was so many things, but first and for most, it was excellent. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is well written, charming, sad, lonely and real. It is about healing, family and identity. Al in all, I didn't expect such a terrific book. Thanks book club!!!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
T. Greenwood
There is much to admire in this tiny little book. It is an ambitious novel tackling large issues (of race, sexuality, and family) with a certain subtle grace. I loved the use of multiple voices, and felt (for the most part) that each of these voices was authentic and resonant. Some of the language is simply lovely...and I was absolutely captivated by the chapters in which we hear Rachel as a child. I think the chapters in which Rachel is an adolescent, however, were a little less credible in ter ...more
Feb 07, 2010 Annie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
This a nice, lean book. I know it won a prize from Barbara Kingsolver for being socially conscious, but it didn't feel that way. That is, it is about a girl trying to find who she is, and while part of that struggle is about how the rest of the world classifies her by race, it is more than that. I feel like the descriptions of the book emphasize the racial obligations too much. The big tension in the book for me was if she was going to end up defined by her parents and their troubles. The mother ...more
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Heidi Durrow

I read Heidi Durrow’s book, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, twice in one month. The first time took just a few sittings, breathlessly turning the pages, locked inside the story. The second time, I read more slowly, taking notes for my Book Group, and savoring the prose.

Rachel, the girl of the title, is inspired by a newspaper article and partly by the author’s own history. She’s a child of a mixed race, bicultural couple: an African-American father and
As a person of mixed raced (nearly exact of Durrow's main character Rachel), I really thought that I would love this novel and fall in love with the characters and Heidi Durrow. The exact opposite happened.
I'm sorry to say, but Durrow is an awful writer. Her one-stream lined consciousness is just not my taste, especially in fiction novels with one main character (though Durrow does switch from character to character narration with extremely awkward timing).
Looking at the back cover and author b
Jae Smith
I think I forgot a cardinal rule of finding a good book: never pick up the one that is stuffed with pages of critical acclaim... I just didn't get it. Obviously Durrow can write - somehow I keep finding books that are extremely readable but ultimately disappointing. She has ability, and here she even had bits that would've made for a good story. But it just seemed that she kept falling short. First gripe: writing 'Southern' dialogue has to be done carefully. It tends to work better if the author ...more
Tara Chevrestt
I was really looking forward to this so it with much dismay that I say I didn't enjoy it as much I hoped to. Based on a real 1980s scandal, the story is about a Danish woman who married a black American Air Force guy and had four children with him. Three of those children make it to the United States where the mother discovers racism still runs strong and worries about the life her children face in this country. (Probably should not have left the airman in Germany for some red headed punk that m ...more
Julia Mukuddem
i quite enjoyed this book, but it wasn't outstanding. i don't know if it was because i read the e-book and i expected the story to be longer than it actually was - you can never judge the way you do with a paper book.

i would still recommend the book - it was hard to put down and it's an easy read. it's rather depressing, so don't expect a feel good story.
Rachel, a biracial young girl, is the sole survivor of a terrible family tragedy. Before the incident, she lived in Europe for most of her life because her dad was in the Air Force. After the tragedy, she is sent to live with her paternal grandmother in a Portland, Oregon neighborhood where almost all the residents are African American. With her light skin and blue eyes, Rachel doesn't quite fit in with her peers. This beautifully written coming of age story deals with Rachel's attempt to deal w ...more
Marcy Reiz
Feb. 2010
I found this book during a search for Barbara Kingsolver (one of my favorite authors). It won her Bellweather Prize for Fiction in, I can't wait to read it. My first newly published book in 2010.

April 2010
To sum up this book--Wow. I really liked how the book switched narrators (those are my favorite types of books).
I was pretty happy with the end of the book but I kind of wanted to see more happen for Rachel. This was such a great read and the chapters are short so it's also
This is a beautifully crafted tale by Heidi Durrow. It is about a girl who is haunted by events that shaped her destiny early on without her having much say in the matter. Events that are only vaguely remembered and yet continue to form the fabric of each passing day. A father who has vanished without a trace. A mother who left this world in the splashiest of ways, taking her own life along with those of her other children by leaping from the roof of a building. There is a witness and a survivor ...more
This book was hard to get into, but once the narrators were more in sync (showed their connections to Nella and Rachel) and as the suspense behind what actually happened on the fateful day of the incident built up, it did get better. Even though Durrow was praised for presenting racial issues in her novel, I felt that the social themes were delivered in a flat and stereotypical manner. She illustrates a fresh perspective through the eyes and experiences of a biracial girl, but fails to touch upo ...more
This was a gem that I accidentally discovered as I (figuratively) stomped around the library because I couldn't find a single book on my 20+ list of titles. Maybe I need to stomp around the library more. I decided that I'd walk through the shelves and try to find a book that caught my eye. Catchy cover -- the title runs vertically and the book was endorsed by Barbara Kingsolver. This was a terrific, thoughtful story and heartbreaking at times. Rachel, about 11 or 12, lives with her grandma in Po ...more
Durrow packs a lot of story into this slim novel--yes, it's 300 pages, but that's mostly layout wizardry (e.g. a blank page or two between every chapter, and there are many chapters). I blazed through it in a couple of hours. The novel's swiftness is both its blessing and its curse: I raced right through it, I felt engaged, I was unflaggingly curious about how the book's central tragedy happened, and it moved me. BUT, the weight of the events sometimes seemed far too complicated and difficult fo ...more
Read this last year - a brilliant debut novel that centers on a bi-racial teenage girl who struggles through a family tragedy. The story is told from different characters' broad perceptions of the tragedy and what unfolds after. This was a story that you don't easily set down, the pace is quick and you just don't want to break from it.
T. Edmund
Seeped in racial tension, The Girl who Fell from the Sky follows a group of characters directly and indirectly involved in an incident where an entire family falls to their death from a rooftop.

Only one young girl survives – and the majority of the story follows her as she tries to make sense of her life after the tragedy.

The narrative of this novel swings somewhat wildly, providing us with insight into a variety of characters in what I can only describe as a semi-chronological order. The main s
I may have read this one a little too fast to get everything from it? It won the Bellwether Prize in 2008 (published earlier this year), but I'm not sure that "socially conscious" would be the first words I would use to describe the book. I might go with "maybe enlightening", "kinda muddled", "lacking setting", "directly written". (And I don't know why I'm so on about setting lately, but here, I couldn't tell any difference between Chicago and Portland, OR, and that seems wrong.)

In large part,
Pamela Huxtable
There is a palpable ache in this book from Rachel, the biracial girl who simply wants to be seen as a whole person, rather than the sum of her white mother and black father. The outside world wants to label her, place her into a category and think no more. Rachel refuses to allow their labels to shape her.

What does shape her, mold her, and serves as a marker for her life is the family tragedy that is carefully sketched in throughout the book. Durrow very skillfully does not reveal all the detail
This book is the story of Rachel who has a black father and Danish mother. Her mother, brother, sister and herself jump from the top of their apartment building. Rachel is the only survivor. She goes to live with her African American grandmother.
The story shifts POV and tense throughout but is not difficult to follow. The mystery is what really happened on the rooftop and secondary to that, Rachel's father and his lack of contact with her. I did not feel either conflict was adequately concluded.
Dec 05, 2011 Trena rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Trena by: Work Book Club
This was a creative first novel...but I never forgot I was reading a first novel. I started this book sometime in the past, I realized when I started it reading it for book club (the next day, ahem--finished on time), and it really bugged me that I couldn't remember the circumstances or if I finished it. So I had a distraction, but the book wasn't enough to quite pull me away from that distraction.

The author, a biracial child of the 80s in Portland writes about a biracial child of the 80s who lo
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Chosen by Barbara Kingsolver for the Bellwether Prize for Literature of Social Change, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books), is one of the Washington Post's Best Novels of 2010 and a Top 10 Book 2010 of The Oregonian.
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“A woman made of parts is a dangerous thing. You never know when she'll throw away a piece you may need.” 70 likes
“If there’s no one else to tell another side - the only story that can be told is the story that becomes true. (p. 173)” 21 likes
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