The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
By Heidi Durrow
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Paperback, 9781616200152, January 2011, 278pp.)
The Short of It:
A tragic tale of a motherless girl and her struggle to come to terms with who she is. Strong in voice, but fell short in the execution.
The Rest of It:
After her family falls off the roof of their building, Rachel is the sole survivor and since her G.I. dad is not in the picture (by choice), she is forced to leave Chicago for Oregon, to live with her paternal grandmother.
At eleven years of age, Rachel finds the transition to be a rough one. In Chicago, the fact that her mother was Danish and her father was black, didn’t seem to be an issue, but when she moves to Oregon, her blue eyes cause her fellow classmates to raise their eyebrows over this “light skinned-ed” girl (as she is called by some).
Her innocence and confusion over what happened in Chicago, and her concern over how she will fit into this new world, is heartbreaking. Except, she’s not all that innocent when it comes down to it, and there are mysterious circumstances surrounding the true events of that fateful evening which is given to the reader in tiny pieces, as told by various characters and sometimes even moving back and forth in time.
What Durrow does well, is create a voice for this young girl that tugs at your heartstrings. Rachel is fragile, like a baby bird. You can’t help but feel for her and all you want to do while reading this book, is grab the girl and give her the biggest hug possible. Life without a mother and father, knowing what she knows, and knowing that there is no way to ever bring her mother back, is almost too much for this young girl to bear.
However, I did have some issues with the story. In a book like this, where identity is front and center, you expect the main character to come full circle or to at least feel comfortable in the skin she was born in. I’m not certain that this occurred by the end of the story. I don’t feel that she had any more of an understanding of who she was at the end, than she did at the beginning of the story which left me feeling lukewarm about all of it.
All in all, what could have been a great book was really just an okay read for me. It lost steam in the middle, picked up towards the end and then left me feeling so-so about it. However, as a book club read, which this is for me, I think there is plenty to discuss. The choices that the parents made, the need to fit in, mixed-marriages and issues of self-worth are all discussion worthy topics and if given a chance to read another Durrow book, I would.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.