Susan O. (Tiburon, CA)
Girl Who Fell from the Sky lands.........
Heidi Durrow has written a compelling coming of age story. Rachel had not had a "typical" childhood, living overseas on military bases with her African American father and her Scandinavian mother. The story is told through the voices of many people who are closely related to the couple, but it was often difficult to follow since there was no established chronology . This reader does feel a kinship with Rachel, but the author doesn't really "finish" her to my satisfaction. It is an interesting premise with a lot of potential. I do think it could open up interesting discussion.
Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
A story and characters that carry the reader along on a search for identity by a mixed race girl whose life is turned upside down and who is defined by those around her in the narrow focus of each one's experience. thought provoking and touching.
Dodi B. (Saratoga, CA)
An inconsistent flight.
Well written but sometimes difficult to follow. The story proceeds in a somewhat jerky fashion but all comes together later in the book. My interest was caught at times but soon waned and the book lay untouched for a time. It does express well the identity problems of a mixed race young person and that part I found touching. I was less willing to follow the "mystery" of who did what to whom and when.
Jane R. (Plantation, FL)
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is well written, but quick read. The write up on the book cover would lead you to believe that the book focuses on race and the difficulties of a mixed race girl moving from a mostly white society to a mostly black one. It seemed to me that Rachel made the racial transition quite easily and that race was not a major issue in the book at all. It was more about Rachel's adjustment to being orphaned and not really belonging to anyone.
Paul R. (Albuquerque, NM)
The Girl Who Feel From The Sky
I like this book because of Rachel's point of view. Half black and half white, she doesn't really fit in with either blacks or whites – but this gives her a unique perspective. At the beginning of the book, Rachel is only eleven; by the end of the book, she is in her late teens, ready to leave home and make her own decisions. The author doesn't tell you that Rachel is growing up, she shows you, chapter by chapter, that Rachel is growing up. You watch it happening – this is quite an achievement! I also liked the way the author leads you, in the course of the book, to some understanding of the reasons behind what Rachel's mother did to her. Initially, you are horrified by what she has done and it seems incomprehensible. But by the end of the book, you can feel some sympathy for Rachel's mother.
Betsy T. (Oklahoma City, OK)
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
I liked this book a lot, especially for the perspective of Rachel, a biracial teenager who feels that people form impressions of her just because of her appearance. Although I learned how a girl like this must have to deal with the world around her, she was portrayed as an individual, never a stereotype. Perhaps this was because of the tragic family story hinted at by the title, but also because as a reader I saw how her family and her experiences shaped her development and growing up.
The structure of the novel is short chapters told from the points of view of different characters. At first it seemed somewhat choppy, but I grew to appreciate the glimpses of the story that created the whole. The development of the characters and the story gradually came together to form a sad but very satisfying novel. I recommend it to fiction readers who like complex characters, coming of age stories, and realistic settings.
Marsha Toy Engstrom, The Book Club Cheerleader
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, by Heidi Durrow
This fresh coming of age story is alternately narrated by several unique voices—and in this way, dark family secrets are slowly revealed to the reader. We see the story unfold from: Rachel, the title character; her late mother, Nella, by way of journal entries; a neighbor boy, Brick (aka: Jamie); Nella’s supervisor, Laronne; and by Rachel’s father, Roger, in a solitary, yet insightful entry. Rachel’s voice is by far the strongest. Her honest words resonate with quiet wisdom as she struggles with such themes as: racial identity, love and loss, affection and sexuality, abandonment and belonging, and growth and survival. Durrow also addresses gritty themes such as alcoholism and recovery, and abuse and caretaking. In a skillful counterpart, Brick struggles with many of these same issues as Rachel.
As a sixth-grade girl, we hear Rachel describe her new grandmother: “This is the picture I want to remember: Grandma looks something like pride. Like a whistle about to blow.” Later, as a freshman in high school, we hear Rachel lament “...the other black girls in school think I want to be white. They call me an Oreo. I don’t want to be white. Sometimes I want to go back to being what I was. I want to be nothing.” Or as James McBride’s mom would’ve described it, “the color of water.”
Rachel is a broken soul and in order to try to make sense of her outward self, she stuffs her feelings: anger, sadness, hurt—and anything she believes may not be acceptable to those around “the new girl”—into what she visualizes as an internal blue bottle with a stopper to keep all of her “bad” feelings in…Heartbreaking, and yet in Durrow’s sparse prose, so clearly seen and felt.
The ending was a bit unsatisfying, but the powerful story, the haunting prose, and the idiosyncratic, well-developed characters overshadow this tiny flaw. Book Clubs will certainly have plenty to discuss.
Coming of age, coming to terms—without completely coming undone…Rachel’s story will yank at your heartstrings. This cheerleader gives Heidi Durrow’s freshman novel a two pom pom cheer!