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 swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.
In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl and society's ideas of race, class, and beauty.
"[O]ne can't help but be drawn in by these characters and by the novel's exploration of race and identity." - Library Journal
"The grim, penetratingly observed story...nothing especially groundbreaking here, but the author examines familiar issues of racial identity and racism with a subtle and unflinching eye." - Kirkus Reviews
"Taut prose, a controversial conclusion and the thoughtful reflection on racism and racial identity resonate without treading into political or even overtly specific agenda waters..." - Publishers Weekly
"When I first envisioned the Bellwether Prize, I imagined all the best qualities of fiction; vivid language, compelling characters, and clear moral vision. Novels just like this one, Heidi Durrow's breathless telling of a tale we've never heard before. Haunting and lovely, pitch-perfect, this book could not be more timely." - Barbara Kingsolver
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Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky won the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.
Heidi W. Durrow has won the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and the Chapter One Fiction Contest. She has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the American Scandinavian Foundation, and the Lois Roth Endowment and a Fellowship for Emerging Writers from the Jerome Foundation. Her writing has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, the Literary Review, and others. Visit her online at www.heidiwdurrow.com
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