Eileen's Reviews > The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
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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 a blond-haired, blue-eyed Danish mother. At first, Rachel’s story seems unique- she is the lone survivor of a fall from a rooftop that claims her mother and two siblings. But as Durrow interweaves the themes of motherhood and race with this troubled child’s search for her sense of self, the universality of her story becomes clear.

Durrow examines prejudice in all its ugly manifestations as vividly as she explores the beauty in the mother-child relationship, even when the mother may be deemed by some to be “unfit” for that role. She does this with honest, unselfconscious language, and startling imagery. The recurring bird metaphor is particularly haunting.

Durrow’s depictions of the multicultural child’s various dilemmas are spot on. On losing one’s mother tongue: “What if you can only have so many words in you at once? What happens to the other words?” (Rachel, p. 58). On looking “different” and fitting in: “There are 15 black people in the class and 7 white people. And there’s me. There’s another girl who sits in the back. Her name is Carmen LaGuardia, and she has hair like mine, my same color skin, and she counts as black. I don’t understand how, but she seems to know.” (Rachel, p. 60)

Through alternating chapters, we hear the story from Rachel’s first-person viewpoint and the view of the other characters in third-person narration. The tense also shifts between present (Rachel) and past (the others). This very effectively allows the reader to see the same events from several different angles, and to gradually solve the mystery of the girl who fell from the sky. At the same time, it reveals the secrets of another mystery, that of story telling itself:

“Laronne had questions, not answers. The answers might be in Nella’s journals, but Laronne couldn’t be sure. We lie to ourselves in many ways; we write down only what we want to understand and what we want to see.” p.108

and

“I can make things not count by writing them down any way I want…I don’t know if the true story…about any story you could think of matters. If there’s no one else to tell another side – the only story that can be told is the story that becomes true.” (Rachel, page 173).

Heidi Durrow tells a story with a clarity that rings true. Highly recommended for Book Groups.
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Reading Progress

April 2, 2011 – Shelved
Started Reading
March 2, 2012 – Finished Reading

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