Monday, August 29, 2011


The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Heidi W Durrow, Algonquin Books, 2010, 264 pp

I have read some great books this summer but this one was the most beautifully written. Rachel is the daughter of Roger, African American soldier, and Nella, a Scandinavian woman whom Roger married during his service in Germany. As the story opens, we only know that Rachel has somehow lost her family and has been taken in by Roger's mother. Grandma is a hard working woman living in a mostly Black Portland, Oregon neighborhood. She has set ideas about bringing up girl children and is fundamentally kind, though she did not approve of Rachel's mother.

With the lightest touch, Durrow shows us Rachel's emotional state, her grief, her struggle to adapt to Grandma's house and life, her conflicts with schoolmates. Eventually you come to realize the horrendous degree of what happened to Rachel, Nella and Roger.

So much sorrow drenches the first half of the story, my heart literally ached. Then more loss and disaster occurs. Still the style and voice of Heidi Durrow just holds you steady, never letting you look away from the devastating results of racism but keeping you secure in the perception that Rachel is no ordinary victim.

As years pass and Rachel finds her place in this new society (outside the military, in a racially divided town) she gets so darn brave and reckless that she scared me to death. I worried she was too damaged to stand up to all that life was asking of her.

In the end, Durrow shows us not all people are dangerous. Because of love, support, and understanding, because of a generosity of spirit found in some people, Rachel grows into young adulthood with a chance to navigate life as a mixed race woman with a tragic past.

The novel is emotional without being sentimental. It is socially conscious without preaching. Most of all though it is exquisitely written with a Toni Morrison influence that is uncanny. Please, Ms Durrow, keep writing novels.

(The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is available in paperback on the shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. Anonymous12:53 PM

    Ditto. I loved it too as you know.

  2. Yes I do know that. And I forgot to mention that the reading group at Once Upon A Time Bookstore had one of our best discussions ever for this book.