The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow
From the Publisher: 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 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 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.
This book was just captivating, from start to finish it took me less than 24 hours! It was told from a few different character's points of view: Rachel, her mother's boss (Larone), her mother's journal entries (Nella), and Jamie/Brick. Rachel is forced to move to Portland after her mother and her family jump from the rooftop in Chicago. She has to begin life in a new city, in a new school, and what essentially is a new life and identity. I really liked how the author was able to make you feel just what Rachel was feeling, it was like she was one of your own friends and you were living the change yourself.
Jamie lived in the apartment building that Nella and her family lived in, and he saw what he thought were birds falling from the sky the day of the accident. Turns out it wasn't birds. He lived with a drug-addicted mother who didn't seem to have a clue as to what was going on. He decided to create a new identity for himself when a report asked him about the accident. He met up with Rachel's father in the hospital, and once he heard the story of her father, he knew he had to let Rachel know what had happened. At a young age he became a runaway and eventually ended up in Portland too.
Larone was Nella's boss and was charged with cleaning up the apartment after the accident. You don't really learn a whole lot about her, but you learn enough to know that she was a compassionate lady.
You learn about Nella through her journal entries. You learn of her history with Rachel's father, and the turmoil she faces internally, knowing that she has bi-racial children in a society that doesn't always accept them.
As I said, I really enjoyed this book. Part of me hopes that the author will write a sequel of sorts, to let us know what happens to Rachel as she gets older. I'd also like to know more about Brick and what happens with him. This book will be featured in August in the Algonquin Book Club, where Heidi will be interviewed by Terry McMillan. Feel free to join in at a club meeting near you, or even through the webcast! If you'd like to read an excerpt of the book, you can do so here. Thank you to Workman Publishing/Algonquin for sending me the copy to review!