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Review – The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
by Heidi W. Durrow
256 pages
Published January 11, 2010
Fiction, literary

I don’t know if you remember, but The Girl Who Fell From the Sky was a book that I was peeing my pants in anticipation because I was so excited to read it. What made me so excited was that this was the Bellwether Prize for Fiction winner, and that prize is only awarded every two years. I like that the Bellwether Prize’s “intent is to advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships.”

In The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Rachel, only 11 years old, has to move to Portland to live with her grandmother after a family tragedy. Rachel has an African-American father and a Danish mother, she’s mixed-race, with blue eyes, and can’t fit in at school. The boys like her, but the girls don’t. Later someone tells her, “It’s like you’re black, but not really black.” (p. 230)

Rachel is trying to navigate her grief at losing her family, while also trying to do well at school. Her paternal grandmother loves her but doesn’t show it well, so it’s her aunt, a kind and sensitive woman, who she gravitates towards.

This book has tragedy in spades.

The narration goes back and forth between Rachel in first person, Brick, a young boy who witnessed the tragedy, Laronne, Rachel’s neighbor from Chicago, and Roger, Rachel’s father. Brick, Laronne, and Roger are all told in third person. I thought the other points of view brought an interesting angle to the story, as we got to see things that Rachel might not have thought to tell us. For example, I was horrified when Laronne remembered talking with Rachel’s mother, and Rachel’s mother calling her kids “jigaboos”, slang for the “n” word. Rachel’s mother didn’t know what jigaboo meant, she was just using what she thought was a cute pet name for her kids (which she picked up from her boyfriend, Doug). You could feel Rachel’s mother’s horror at her use of the derogatory term just radiating off of the page.

Brick had a particularly interesting side story, and while it wasn’t his family who died, what he went through to find Rachel was heartbreaking and heartwarming, all at the same time.

This is an important book about a biracial girl, how she comes through her grief, and how she forms her identity.

While I enjoyed The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, particularly by the end (which was a tad too tidy, but I liked it nonetheless), ultimately this book is forgettable. I think, though, that this book would be an amazing book club pick, and if discussed with other readers, would make more of an impression on those who read it. I believe I’m finding it forgettable because I haven’t had anyone to discuss it with, no one to help me cement the characters in my mind.

Rating: 85 out of 100

Heidi Durrow’s website.

Other reviews:

APOO Bookclub

Book source: I received this book, unsolicited, from the publisher.

| Tags: , , , , , 11 comments »

11 Responses to “Review – The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow”

  1. Bibliophile By the Sea

    This one has been on my shelf for months despite many good review like yours. (It will get read soon).


  2. Kylie Purdie

    I read a review of this somewhere else today (can’t remember where!) and immediately added it to my TBR list. Great review


  3. Beth F ()

    Interesting reaction, but I know exactly what you mean about some books need a good discussion to solidify one’s thoughts.


  4. bermudaonion (Kathy) ()

    I’m in a newly formed neighborhood book club – maybe I’ll suggest this book for us to read soon.


  5. Sandy

    This was listed as one of the best books of the year by Bookmarks, strangely. They also included a number of other books that I really don’t think deserved to be on the list – there is just no rhyme or reason to their selections. But this book did catch my eye. I’m in the mood to be blown away, so maybe I will pass this time.


  6. zibilee ()

    I have been on the fence about this book for a long time, and while I do want to read it, I am stuck by your comment that it is overall, forgettable. I am not sure I want to read this without my book club, and perhaps I will suggest it in an upcoming month. Thanks for the perceptive review, Trish!


  7. Jen - Devourer of Books ()

    I’m sad you think this is forgettable. I bought it in hardcover and lord only knows when I’ll get to it – probably not soon, after this review.


  8. Lisa

    Sorry to hear that it didn’t live up to “peeing my pants with anticipation” standards. But I’m definitely going to have to consider this one for my book club. A club, mind you, that seems unable to recommend any books on their own which is kind of nice for me!


  9. Lu ()

    A lot of people have been somewhat disappointed by this book. That’s unfortunate, because I was so excited to read it! I still might pick it up, not sure yet. Thanks for this review!


  10. Veens

    I know what you mean. I like the plot and I definitely want to read this one. Sometimes I do wish it would be great to discuss a book, just to see what impact it brings about.


  11. Tahlia ()

    I’m glad you used the word – forgettable, because I’m finding that with quite a few books that are ‘bestsellers’ and several books that have won awards. It makes you wonder what the judges are looking for and whether publicity makes a bestseller, rather than the book. There are memorable books out there, they just aren’t always the ones that get the awards or the hype.

    I’m going to start giving M awards for memorable books.


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