*The Girl who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow (2010)

 

Rachel falls from the sky–she really does.  But she’s not an angel or a bird.  She’s a young,biracial girl who sails through the air from the top of a building to the ground below where she lands, along with her brother, her mom, and the baby still in her mom’s arms. Rachel is the lone survivor. No spoiler alert here because all of this happens within the first 15 pages.  What we don’t know is why they fall.  And that’s what the story is really about. When it opens, Rachel is living with her grandma, whose “body is a bullet. . .thick and short.”  She goes on to describe her Grandma as one who “looks something like pride.  Like a whistle about to blow.”  We get Rachel’s version of the story first, but not the whole story–because she’s trying to figure it out–and then we get the story from the voices of other characters: Jamie, who sees them fall; Roger, Rachel’s father; Nella, Rachel’s mother; and Laronne, Nella’s boss.  Together, they unravel a story of what happened and why, and through them, we watch each character make sense of the events and try to move forward.  It takes a while to understand the relationships and the time sequence (requiring me to reread sections several times), but as it comes together, I developed an increased appreciation for the four perspectives and the answers they each unveil.  Some may see it as disjointed–and it is–but I think the fractured telling of the story mirrors their journey, from Nella’s marriage to her death and from Rachel’s survival to her acceptance.  I don’t see the racial aspect as a strong motif–poverty and culture seem much more important.  The story can be tough to stomach at times, and it left me wondering where my empathy lies.

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