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

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

Heidi W. Durrow

256 pages

Publication Year: 2010

Publisher: Algonquin

Source: Bought it


It’s a funny thing to think about: moving toward extinction. And I think of how maybe I’m already extinct in a strange way – there’s no way to make another me: at least I can’t do it. But that doesn’t matter anyway because I never want to have kids.

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is the debut novel from Heidi W. Durrow. It’s also the winner of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, which was founded by Barbara Kingsolver.

The story tells the life of Rachel, the only survivor of tragic, mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of her three siblings and their mother. Rachel is also biracial, the daughter of a white Danish mother and African-American father. After the death of her family members, Rachel is sent to live with her paternal grandmother and has to learn how to navigate in a country where she’s considered black, something she didn’t think much about before. Told from the perspective of Rachel, her mother Nella, and those who knew their family, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is an engaging read of one girl’s struggle to live after the death of those she loved most.

This year I’m learning a lot about my reading. I’ve learned that I don’t read many books that feature:

  • the elderly as protagonists
  • mother-daughter relationships
  • bi-racial characters

Where have I been? In today’s society with so many people being of several races and cultures, I can’t believe I’ve ignored this. Luckily reading this book brought it to my attention. As a young girl, not only does Rachel has to deal with everything that has happened, she also has to learn how to deal with so much attention to both who she is physically, her long fuzzy hair that makes girls in her class want to fight her, blue eyes, and light brown skin to who she is as a person, someone who loves to read and tries to understand what being black means in America during the 1980s.

The problem is that as interesting and engaging as the book was, I didn’t connect very well to Rachel. Readers understand this character through her words and interactions with others but it wasn’t enough.

I had the same problem with Rachel’s mother, Nella. Nella is a young Danish woman living in Europe when she meets Roger, an African-American man stationed at a nearby base. They soon marry and have children before Nella leaves Roger and flees to the United States with their children. She struggles with everything before she finally makes a terrifying decision.  I wish there was more pages dedicated to this fierce woman.

 *spoiler spoiler spoiler 

I need to understand her decision with the same depth that I understood a similar decision in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

*spoiler over

Though I didn’t get the connection I needed, I still think this was an excellent read. My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
This entry was posted in fiction, reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Thoughts on The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

  1. zibilee says:

    I have been wanting to read this book for a long while, but it sounds like it was curiously flat for some reason. The premise and synopsis sound really intriguing, but I am not sure I would get on well with characters that I don’t feel connected to. I am going to have to reconsider reading this one, but I really did love your thoughtful review!

  2. I really liked the way this book was written, the language and what not, but something prevented me from loving the book as a whole. I think you may have identified the source.

  3. Gavin says:

    I am curious about this one but hesitate because of your lack of connection to Rachel. I will make a note of it but I have so many great books waiting to be read that it will have to wait for a while.

    • Vasilly says:

      Gavin, I read other reviews of this book and the same concern came up. I love how we all have some amazing books that are just waiting to be read! 🙂

  4. Alex says:

    Was the book autobiographical? Elderly character is also a gap, although I hadn’t noticed until now!

    • Vasilly says:

      The book wasn’t autobiographical though the author was haunted by a similar incidence that she read about in a newspaper.

      It’s so funny how we don’t notice the gaps until we read a book about something we usually don’t. 😉

  5. Thanks for your thoughtful review, Natasha! This is one I waffle back and forth about reading. I’ve read a mixed bag of reviews, but yours has intrigued me the most. 🙂

  6. Beth F says:

    There have definitely been mixed reactions to this one.

  7. Trisha says:

    Most reviews I’ve read have been underwhelmingly positive (if that makes sense). I can’t decide if it’s one to read or not.

  8. We’ve had a similar response to this one. There is still a lot to recommend it, but I’m afraid my expectations got in the way.

  9. I definitely found that I like books better when I can connect with the protagonists – they don’t all have to be goodies, but at least make me want to find out what happened to them. A lot of the books I abandoned is because I really don’t care what happen to the characters… so why should I keep reading.

  10. Aarti says:

    I went to see this author at a bookstore a couple of years ago, when this book first came out, though I did not purchase the book. I have heard some mixed reviews of it, but regardless, I think it’s great that there are books being written from a more nuanced cultural perspective rather than the very specific silos that we are used to seeing. Glad you enjoyed this one!

  11. Pingback: It’s Monday! What are you reading? « 1330v

  12. What a great review, you have added more for me to think about but I think I still want to read this one this year. I have many biracial friends, wonder if I will enjoy and relate more.

    Sometimes the gaps in reading is because you have to search for those reads.

    I’m a new follower.

  13. rebeccareid says:

    I’m very intrigued. I haven’t read a book with such racial issues before either (at least not recently) and it sounds like it has great potential. It’s too bad it wasn’t a completely satisfying read for you, but I”m still curious to read it some day.

Comments are closed.