The Girl Who Fell From the Sky; Heidi Durrow
2010 - HighBridge Audio and Algonquin Books
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, is a coming of age story about a young (preteen) girl, who moves to Oregon to live with her black grandmother who she doesn’t really know. Rachel’s father is African-American and was stationed in Europe when he met Rachel’s mother, Nella, a while woman. Something has happened to Rachel's family and life as she knew it has forever changed.
Prior to moving to Portland, Oregon in the 1980s, Rachel never thought about race, she was a bright girl who has lived in many different places since her father was in the the military. In Portland, race rears its ugly head almost immediately. Rachel is a pretty girl with beautiful blue eyes, and it is difficult for her to fit in at school and in her new environment. One of the black girls asks her, “what are you?” - something that she never really thought about before. She learns to act like the black girls so that she isn’t continuously picked on.
As the story progresses the reader becomes aware of some sort of tragedy that took from the rooftop of a Chicago apartment building that took the life of the Rachel's mother, and her three siblings. The details of the incident are sketchy and Rachel’s father is not in the picture.
The story is told from different points in time and different points of view, including revelations from Rachel’s mother’s diary. (Nella's struggles raising racially mixed children on her own.) Other characters who knew the family share what they knew about the family as well. Bit by bit the reader gets more information about the rooftop tragedy and the history which preceded the terrible event.
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a very good debut novel which was based on a true story. The focus of the story is more about Rachel and those who interact with her, rather than solving the mystery of the tragedy. I listened to this story mostly in audio format, and I found Rachel’s voice to be authentic and compelling. My heart went out to her for what she experienced, and I admired her strength while struggling to fit in and survive after losing the people she loved the most.
(library audio and arc)