Musings on The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

August 31, 2013 § 5 Comments

This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

I think I had a bit of a book hangover after I initially finished reading this book because it managed to be so captivating and just beautifully written. There were a lot of things that I absolutely loved about the book.

Let’s start with the unusual narrative structure. The story is told from the POV of three different characters: Rachel (our protagonist), Jamie (who later becomes Brick) and Laronne. Jamie and Laronne for the most part tell the story of everything that takes place surrounding the initial accident whilst Rachel’s narrative is her life and struggles after the accident. It deals with the regular struggle of a young girl, but also dwells on the added difficult of being a bi-racial child in the US in the 1980s. She has to frequently struggle with her identity, often not being “black” enough or “white” enough. Durrow manages to mix all of these narratives together in a way that complements one another and tells the overarching story of Rachel, from beginning to end. You get many varying versions of Rachel, from how Jamie and Laronne (who have never met the girl) envision “the girl who fell from the sky” to how Rachel sees herself to how Rachel views herself through her grandmother’s eyes, etc. It’s a difficult narrative structure to tackle but Durrow does it very well, without it becoming jarring or confusing.

The writing itself was rather poignant, often touching on the poetic. I especially enjoyed the passages that described Rachel’s struggle with her sexuality but the entire book, really, was a captivating read.

The only real problem I had with it was the abruptness and lack of closure in the ending. There seemed to be a sudden shift in Jesse’s character all of a sudden, which I could understand but it wasn’t fully explored and the fact that after everything that happened, Rachel would be willing to live with Jesse’s newly rising characteristics was a little disheartening. Maybe I just wanted a more self-assured Rachel at the end, but the entire lack of closure just left me unhappy.

Nevertheless, it’s a book I would definitely recommend reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would re-read simply for the great writing.

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