Monday, April 8, 2013

Readings and Greetings: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

By the time I finished reading this novel I felt broken, like Langston Hughes' poetic lines*, "Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is like a broken-winged bird that cannot fly."  I was angry and sad that our society could be so cruel as to allow such bullying, such labeling, such abuse and neglect.   My body and mind responded viscerally to this story, and I couldn't find words to write down my feelings.

"Sleep on it, Letty,"  I told myself.  " Let it marinate overnight so I might treat it more tenderly upon rest and reflection rather than write now in this emotional moment of sadness and anger."  

So I slept on my thoughts about Rachel, Brick, Nella, Laronne, Aunt Loretta, Grandma.  They haven't changed, but my insides are no longer tied in knots of anguish.  My suggestion is Don't Read this Book unless you have a heart that won't burst for the women in this story.  Don't Read this Book if abuse or neglect bother your soul.  Don't Read this Book if you can't stomach how a mother's love can go from devotion and sacrifice to a twisted end.  Don't Read this Book if you wonder how people could keep secrets, why they bury family and family history and never look back.  

If, on the other hand, you can handle sad books that do leave the reader with just a shard of hope, or you want a book that we call "a page turner" then this is the book for you.  264 pages can be devoured in one rainy cold day.

Eleven year old Rachel, a beautiful blue eyed little girl of light brown complexion survives a fall or a shove from a Chicago apartment building, because her fall is cushioned by the already dead and broken bodies of her brother, mother, and baby sister.  Her father, a G.I. stationed in Europe, sits in the hospital with her, and meets a young boy who changed his name from Jamie to Brick after seeing Rachel's brother fly by his apartment window.  Before Rachel comes out of the coma the father leaves his daughter and never returns to the story.  The Grandmother, the father's mother, lives in a mostly black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon where Rachel is sent to live when she is well.  In her Grandma's neighborhood she learns that in American we label people by color.  You are either black or white.  Being Danish, which she is since her mother was a white woman from Denmark, is not important.  It is the racism, the culture, and the loneliness that breaks across the reader's soul.  I know how ugly and cruel people can be, especially children and teens.  I just prefer to spend my time with people who are upbeat;  in this story Rachel does her best to pick upbeat people as friends, but some situations are out of her control.  

The layout of the novel is intriguing, but sometimes hard to follow.  The chapters change as we meet each person's story and their impact on the mystery as to how or why Rachel fell from the sky.  Durrow weaves a mystery, but in the end she makes the reader stop and ask, "Do I label people, by color, by class, by circumstance?"

I'm curious as to what my book club members will say about the book.  If you read this book, please feel free to leave a comment below.  

* "Dreams" by Langston Hughes

Hold on to dreams
  for if dreams die
Life is like a broken-winged bird
  that cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
  for when dreams go
Life is a barren field
  frozen in snow.

? I wonder if Rachel read this poem, or better yet, did the author Heidi Durrow identify with this poem?


  1. Now I have to read it. em


  2. Bring me all of your dreams, you dreamer
    Bring me all of your heart melodies
    That I may wrap them in a blue cloud cloth
    Away from the too-rough fingers of the world.
    -Langston Hughes

    Letty,I was inspired by the opening lines of your latest blog.