The Girl Who Fell from the Sky--Heidi Durrow

I wanted to find fault with this book.  I looked for fault.  I looked for bad reasoning, bad characters, bad writing, bad anything.  I didn't want to be persuaded of the possible reality of what Ms. Durrow wrote about.  And ultimately, I was not completely persuaded.  I did not find the actions of one of the central character completely comprehensible or even, given the slender thread of what we know, logical within the cracked and warped world of though even of that character.

However, that took no part away from the power of this book.  I allowed me a little escape hatch, admittedly, but not much of one.  And I found myself loving this story, these characters, this revelation of identity.

The book centers around a mysterious and tragic act that takes place in some projects in Chicago and the life of a girl who survives the horror as she grows up with her grandmother in Portland.  The girl, Rachel, is half-Danish and half African American--a fact that expresses itself in her blue eyes, which are noted by her peers and by others throughout the book.

The central themes are identity and image--in this case the double problem of the identity of a teen-age girl as she comes of age and as she enters into an understanding of her biraciality and what that entails for her life. 

The chapters are told from the point of view of Rachel, Jamie/Brick--the boy who comes to search for her, Laronne, who is a friend of the family, and Rachel's mother through excerpts from her journals.  It is a powerful, haunting, and many ways dread-inspiring story.  I found myself paging back and forth to make sure that things I feared would happen did not because I didn't want the "down" experience. 

But ultimately, as dire as some of what happens in the book is, the story is a powerful exaltation of coming to terms with self, past, image, race, and a whole world of things that no one should be forced to deal with.  However, because of the way the world is, we all have those things to face that we should not have to endure.  This is a story to help us endure and to know that we are not alone in our endurance, and that our endurance is not always in extremis.

Powerful and beautiful. ****

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