The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W Durrow

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The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W Durrow

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Donna Wells
Reviewed by Donna Wells
Summary: The Girl Who Fell From The Sky doesn’t pull any punches. Within the first few pages you’re hit by a tragic event that leaves you appalled and intrigued. You’re then hooked to find out exactly what happened on the roof that day, why it happened and how one little girl finds the strength to carry on.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
ISBN: 978-1851687459

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Set in 1980s America, The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is a story built around a tragic event in a young girl’s childhood. The opening scene introduces you to Rachel, an elusive young girl, not black, not white but light skinned-ed as she is packed off to live with her grandma after a devastating family event. Immediately, Durrow highlights race and identity as the primary themes, and we follow blue-eyed Rachel as she struggles between two worlds – the white world of her Danish mother, and the other black world of her African-American G.I. father.

As the title might ironically suggest, this isn’t a light tale with death, drug abuse and alcoholism all thrown into the mix. Indeed there is the undercurrent fear that your genetic make-up, particularly the bad, will determine who you are, as Rachel points out, everything about a person will show up in another person in the family. This is particularly poignant since both of Rachel’s parents are alcoholics, which causes her to worry about her own identity, and to ‘taste’ an offered alcoholic drink rather than gulp it down.

Similarly, there is the fear that you can’t escape your environment. Rachel begins to realise that racism is embedded in society even in the very foundations as she notes, AT SCHOOL EVERYTHING about black history you learn in one month.

There is hope though, as the story progresses Rachel begins to find her own identity and escapes from the confines society can put you into. This is through her friends and experiences. Rachel observes that Jesse makes me see there’s a different way to be white. And Brick makes me see there’s a different way to be black.

Brick acts as a different viewpoint not just for Rachel but for us. He witnesses the tragic event on the roof that day – mistaking the dark shadow for a bird. The way this is told is almost poetic and Brick adds something quite subtly beautiful and moving to the narrative. His story collides with Rachel’s as they both try to escape the events of that day.

Overall, I enjoyed this debut novel but after a gripping initial opening it lost some of its pace. I’m also not entirely sure I believed Rachel’s mother’s absolute desperation, possibly because she doesn’t really get her say. Her view is diluted through diaries and snippets rather that the depth that’s allowed to other characters. However, the characters of Rachel and Brick are entirely convincing. Together they are both searching to understand why they are here and it’s good to follow them as the reader.

Rachel knows she is lucky to survive but is left pondering what for and in dark moments resorts to wasting her life just to show it is her life to waste. By the end you believe that she is starting to make sense of it all as you too are filled in on what exactly happened that tragic day.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For another look at race in America, albeit from a slightly earlier period we can recommend The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Buy The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W Durrow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W Durrow at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W Durrow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W Durrow at Amazon.com.


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