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

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
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really liked it
bookshelves: youngadult

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a small book that packs a big punch. While it was a fast read, it's a book that will stay with me for a long time. Many of the quotes on the book praise it for its honest treatment of race and while it did prompt me to examine my own thoughts and beliefs about race, I found myself thinking that this book was less about race than about broken people who have experienced painful trauma in their lives.

The titular Girl is Rachel, daughter of an African-American serviceman and a Danish mom, who is living with her grandmother in the Pacific northwest. We meet Rachel shortly after she moves in with her grandmother, when Rachel decides she will be a "new girl" and start her life all over. There are many reasons Rachel decides to do this: being the new girl at school (never an easy experience), a desire to leave behind the circumstances that have put her in the care of her grandmother, a capitulation to the pressure from her grandmother and others to be someone she is not. While I am not bi-racial, I could relate to Rachel's desire to become someone new and I think most readers would recall their own adolescent feelings when reading about Rachel's search for her own identity.

We follow Rachel as she tries on and discards various versions of herself, and each iteration feels authentic. The book is likewise populated with a cast of characters who are three-dimensional, complex and not easily categorized:

from Rachel's grandmother, who attends church regularly but gradually sinks into a bottle of sherry as the book progresses,

to Roger, Rachel's absent father who battles his own demons,

to Nella, Rachel's mother who leaves her own country to raise three young children in strange and far away Chicago,

to Brick, a young man who witnesses Rachel's early trauma and meets her father,

to Drew, who serves as the only semi-consistent male figure in Rachel's life.

These people are, without exception, broken. They have each lived through and survived circumstances that, while believable, are nearly outside the realm of my comprehension. Yet the ending of the book brought some redemption, some closure. While many of the characters above fail Rachel, a few manage to be who I wanted them to be, and it felt like Rachel was on the path to becoming whole, or at least healed, by the end.

If you're in the mood for a book that will make you think, this is a great choice. Even though it's a quick read, it's not something to take to the beach. You may find yourself carrying around these characters' pain for a while. But carrying another's burdens often changes us. Do make time to read this and prepare to carve a space in your heart for these characters who will be both like and unlike you.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 3, 2010 – Finished Reading
March 4, 2010 – Shelved
April 24, 2010 – Shelved as: youngadult

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