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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  19,911 Ratings  ·  3,012 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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Khadeejah Muhammad I'm about three quarters into the book and I'm hooked! It's told from various points of view that all intwine and explain things along the way.…moreI'm about three quarters into the book and I'm hooked! It's told from various points of view that all intwine and explain things along the way. Definitely give it a go!(less)
Wench by Dolen Perkins-ValdezPerfect Peace by Daniel Black32 Candles by Ernessa T. CarterThe 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 19 books — 143 voters
Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsSpirit Bound by Richelle MeadClockwork Angel by Cassandra ClareLast Sacrifice by Richelle MeadRoom by Emma Donoghue
Best Books of 2010
99th out of 1,325 books — 2,428 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 12, 2013 Amanda 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
Dec 24, 2011 Rena 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 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 it was amazing
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
Feb 20, 2010 Karen 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 Lauren 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
Dec 15, 2015 Shannon 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
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
T. Greenwood
Feb 23, 2010 T. Greenwood 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
Feb 16, 2011 Judy 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!!!
Feb 24, 2016 Siv30 rated it liked it
Shelves: american
רייצ'ל היא בתם של אם לבנה שוודית וחייל אמריקאי שחור. משפחתה הגיעה לארה"ב ואמה שלה נלחמת על מקומם של הילדים המעורבים בסביבה עויינת לאפרו אמריקאים. קשיי הקליטה שלה והבדידות מובילים אותה לעזוב את אביה של רייצ'ל ולגור עם חבר גם הוא שחור ואלכוהליסט. מצבה המתדרדר מוביל את המשפחה לטרגדיה ממנה רק רייצ'ל ניצלת ונשלחת לסבתה, אימא של אבא שלה הגרה בקהילה שחורה שאינה מקבלת את רייצ'ל המעורבת.

אביה של רייצ'ל בורח ואינו מופיע בחיי בתו כך שהיא נותרת לבד להילחם בסביבה הבעייתית, בעבר בעייתי, עם סבתא בעייתית ונוקשה
Julia Grundling
Jul 05, 2014 Julia Grundling 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.
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
Apr 04, 2010 Jane rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 21, 2011 Mikayla 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
Eileen Souza
Mar 04, 2010 Eileen Souza 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
Jae Smith
Jan 05, 2013 Jae Smith 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
Mar 08, 2016 Annie 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
Jul 20, 2012 Eileen 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
Apr 20, 2010 Felicity rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tammy Parks
Aug 17, 2016 Tammy Parks 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 13, 2014 Thien-Kim 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
Marcy Reiz
Apr 05, 2011 Marcy Reiz rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
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
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
Jul 28, 2013 Cathy rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 28, 2009 Jackie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jackie by: Craig at Algonquin
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 brother and baby ...more
Aug 15, 2010 jo rated it did not like it
i feel ridiculous being so harsh on this entirely harmless book that i am giving it one star, but goodreads tells us that one star means "i didn't like it," whereas two stars means "it was okay," and i think that the book is entirely and completely okay, but, me, i didn't like it. in fact, the legenda in the goodreads star system is extremely skewed toward positivity, so that if one really hated a book one would still have to give it one star. lots of nuances for liking, no nuances for disliking ...more
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
Caro M.
Aug 02, 2015 Caro M. rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads

This story is about Rachel, who is biracial, and who comes to live with her paternal African-American grandmother after a terrible tragedy that happened to her family. We get to know her, we get to see the world through her eyes. She gets attached to people, she loses people, she grows up a bit. Nothing special, seemingly. Yet there is this unanswered question inside her, one that she tries to answer to herself all the time, the one that she is afraid to answer, and probably hides from it.

I hav
Jul 03, 2010 Ji rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, culture
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
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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.” 77 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)” 26 likes
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