Monday, February 27, 2012

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

by Heidi W. Durrow
Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010.

Rachel lives with her grandmother because her mother, in a fit of depression, pushed her children and jumped off the roof of a nine-story apartment complex. Rachel survived.

This is the sort of book that I don't necessarily like while I'm reading, but as it lingers in my mind and I turn over elements of it in my thoughts, I realize how powerful and beautiful it was. The structure is a little difficult. Rachel's narrates her parts of the story, while the experiences of Laronne (her mother's boss), Jamie (the boy who witnessed her brother falling), and others are interspersed in a story that covers about five years in non-chronological order.

As if her mother's suicide and her siblings' deaths weren't enough to deal with, Rachel is of mixed race, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black father, and has to deal with racism and people in the black community telling her she's "acting white." But the book doesn't read like an "issues" book, it's just Rachel's story of adolescence, growing up, finding her identity and understanding her past. It's very internal, almost a collection of impressions rather than a straightforward plot. A few sentences made me stop in my tracks because I had to think about them, rather than rush on to the end. The story itself is how Rachel describes the blues: storing up all sorts of sadness, but making something beautiful out of it.

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