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



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[This is a weird sidenote, but I was reading this while on a plane and there was a person I noticed who kept glaring at the book and I realized it was probably not the best thing to be reading while flying. Whoops.]


“Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop. Forced to move to a new city, with her strict and alcoholic African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and mixed beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It’s there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity. This searing and heartwrenching portrait of a young biracial girl dealing with society’s ideas of race and class is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.”



I went into this one being told in person that it’s both heartwrenching and even a little devastating, especially on its subject of race and civil rights/social justice. I sat on it for awhile but then really with everything going on with civil rights/reform, no time like the present.

This book is separated in two parts, and then is separated further from the perspective of multiple different characters:

-Rachel, the mixed-race young girl who was the only survivor of a terrible accident of falling from a very high building
-Rachel’s mother
-A neighborhood boy who witnessed the entire falling event and Rachel’s family dying
-Rachel’s father
-Rachel’s mother’s boss who helped take care of the family

Rachel is the primary character, a girl haunted both by her mixed race [and therefore her appearance] and getting various kinds of abuse and attention from both white and black people – including her own family, as well as that she was the only survivor of her siblings and mother when they plummeted off a nine-story building.

Her skin is a lighter brown, her hair doesn’t have the same texture as the other girls around her, and she has blue eyes. This causes her to constantly have many women/girls come after her maliciously/jealously, and boys/men come after her romantically/sexually and only furthers her conflict. However, despite that the story centers heavily on her struggles of being mixed, there’s also the issue of that she and no one really seems to know the details of the incident of the fall. Was it truly an accident? Was it a murder-suicide done by her own mother? Or was it plain murder by someone who pushed them all off?

If it was murder, was it the out-of-picture father because their mother had a new boyfriend? Was it the boyfriend who ended up being a racist and didn’t want the children of a black man around anymore? Or was it a generally racially-motivated murder of someone who didn’t like a white woman and a black man having children? If it was a suicide, why? What went wrong with their mother – why would any mother kill her own children?

Meanwhile she additionally struggles with her overly strict, alcoholic, unbelievably mean grandmother, the abandonment by her father, the loss of the few people that didn’t mistreat her in some way, and no matter what, not being able to do anything right as seen by everyone around her.

It actually took me awhile to get through this book. I had to force myself to keep reading parts of it after getting bored or just not wanting to read it, but after I did force myself, the reading was fairly quick, but in sections at a time. Between those sections it really took some major self-control to force myself to not just ditch it. It wasn’t that it was emotionally hard to get through or anything, and it’s not that I didn’t feel for the character and all that she went through…

I dunno, really. I guess I just wasn’t as enthralled with it as I’d like. The writing is good, characters are solid, the subject matter is deep and seems completely likely that it could happen realistically. I also didn’t dislike it enough to not already recommend it to a few other people that I think would like/appreciate it. I guess I just really didn’t like the directions and outcomes that the book/author took.

I’m pretty conflicted. I’d say that if the synopsis peaks your interest, definitely give it a read, but also read it with a grain of salt.



I give The Girl Who Fell from the Sky 3/5 Hidden Blue Bottles of Emotion


“On that day Mor took us up to the roof, she had calculated the difference between what we couldn’t have and her ability to watch us want. The difference between her pain and ours, she decided, measured nine stories high.”




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