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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  28,314 ratings  ·  3,828 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 (first published January 1st 2010)
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Carrie This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. The various voices are unpredictable and each have their own attitude and beliefs.
Great Book!!…more
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. The various voices are unpredictable and each have their own attitude and beliefs.
Great Book!!!! Hope she continues to write.(less)
Susan Greenberg
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  28,314 ratings  ·  3,828 reviews

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Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 happen ...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
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Connie 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
Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
(Check out the full review at

Rachel, sole survivor of a family tragedy navigates boxes others deem fitting for her. Will she choose, or will she set out to determine who she is on her own terms?

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, a debut book, by Heidi W. Durrow, paints a picture of a young girl, born to an African-American father and a Danish mother, and her journey to reclaim what she believes herself to be in a world obsessed with categories, while realizing how ha
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: other-stuff
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
Britta Böhler
The themes were interesting but the story fizzled out quite a bit in the 2nd half.
2.5* rounded up
Apr 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, the first (and only) novel by Heidi Durrow, won the 2010 Bellwether Prize, an award given every other year to a work of fiction that focuses on social justice issues. The focus in this case was on growing up biracial (and with blue eyes) in America. Like her protagonist, Rachel, Durrow was the daughter of a white Danish mother and an African-American serviceman father. She moved to the Portland, Oregon in United States when she was eleven. But Durrow’s life si
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
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
This is the story of Rachel, a biracial (black and white) girl who loses her immediate family due to jaw dropping decision made by her mother. After the incident, Rachel leaves Chicago to live with her father’s mother in Oregon.

Rachel struggles to understand why she’s treated differently just because she doesn’t look like most of the people around her. She's also conflicted about which part of herself to identify with. As Rachel’s grandmother fills in the parenting role, she is not able to appr
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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!!!
Jun 24, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Stella❤️ 孔凡星
2.5* I’m not very impressed...
The Dusty Jacket
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Rachel Morse is eleven years old and living with her paternal grandmother in Portland, Oregon. Born to a Danish mother and an African-American GI father, she finds herself caught between two very different worlds and struggles to find a place somewhere in the middle. However, it is the early 1980s and Rachel is often forced to choose between black and white: “I see people two different ways now: people who look like me and people who don’t look like me.” She builds her world around “last-time th ...more
Book Concierge
Audiobook performed by Karen Murray, Emily Bauer, and Kathleen McInerney

From the book jacket: Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop. Forced to move to a new city with her African-American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, startling blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way.
Eileen Souza
Mar 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: north-america
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
T. Greenwood
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feb 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, modern-fiction
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
Tammy Parks
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.75 A thoughtful and beautiful book. Rachel is the daughter of an African American GI father and a Danish mother. Due to a horrible tragedy, she lives with her paternal grandmother. Slowly, the story of Rachel's mother, father, and siblings is revealed. There is an interesting parallel storyline about Jamie, a young man who witnessed the tragedy and comes to play an important role in Rachel's life. This is a sad, but also uplifting and inspiring, look at the life of a biracial teen, a girl caug ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of my reading goals this year is to read more books by authors of color. I recently learned of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow. The novel reads well and quickly, but don’t let that fool you. The subject matter is multi-layered. I have never read a novel where sadness and heartache was written so beautifully. I make the novel sound heavy, but reading it doesn’t feel that way.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is about Rachel who at a young age moves in with her grandmother, whom sh
Dedria A.
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I sped through the girl who fell from the sky in two days( really less that 10 hours). The characters were real and engaging. The conflicts engrossing. Though I am not a fan of multiple points of view this structure made sense as the stories came together. The only weakness seemed to be the stereotypical approach to black people. I expected more diversity in those characters considering the story is set in Portland, Oregon. Overall,
a great read and thought-provoking.
Wilhelmina Jenkins
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written, heartbreaking coming-of-age novel about a biracial girl searching for her own identity in the aftermath of a horrendous tragedy. A haunting first novel from author Heidi Durrow.
Apr 20, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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Play Book Tag: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky / Heidi W Durrow - 4**** 3 23 Jan 11, 2018 06:27AM  
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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. ...more

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