Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Heidi Durrow)

Title: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Author: Heidi Durrow
Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 264
Rating: 4 out of 5
Challenges: Book group; PoC
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book
Summary (from the back of the book): In the aftermath of a family tragedy, a biracial girl must cope with society's ideas of race and class in this acclaimed novel, winner of the Bellweather Prize for fiction addressing issues of social justice.

Review: When we read the brief description of this book, the praise from various sources, and then the first page I was ready to read it. Race and class issues? Tragedy and hope? Great writing? Let's do it.

But, all that was not to be. I wanted to love this book, to feel for Rachel, the main character, to really understand what being biracial was like for this little girl. That just didn't happen for me. It's not that I didn't like the book, it just wasn't as good as I had thought it was going to be.

The book is narrated by a number of characters, which is a style I usually like, however, in this book it just felt choppy with the back and forth between people and time. Here's a better summary of the story since the back doesn't really say much about it: The book starts out with Rachel, whose mother is white and whose father is African-American, leaving a hospital to live with her African-American grandmother and we know some tragedy has befallen the rest of her family. Chapters then alternate between Rachel, Brick (a boy she knew in Chicago), and Laronne (a woman who worked with Rachel's mother), and Roger (Rachel's dad). Slowly the truth is revealed about what happened to Rachel's family and we see Rachel growing into a teen.

I wanted more introspection from Rachel and more on how she felt about being bi-racial, losing her family, and how it affected her growing up. I feel like this book had so much potential, but it just didn't live up to it.

Geography Connection:



This book takes place in both Chicago where Rachel lived with her mother and siblings and in Washington State where she lives with her grandmother. The book definitely could have had more description of these cities and neighborhoods. Click to see my updated Google Map.

14 comments:

Mrs. DeRaps said...

Too bad that this book doesn't really come together...I've been wanting to read it. Mostly because of the cover and the title. I might still pick it up!

MissAttitude said...

I actually liked that this book didn't spend much time focusing on Rachel being biracial because I think there are enough of those boks out there. I preferred the emphasis on the mystery element, but I do agree that I wanted more time to be spent on how Rachel felt about growing up after such a tragedy.

I loved Brick! But the multiple narratives wasn't crucial, we only needed Rachel and Brick's, not really Roger and Laronne.

Amy said...

I'm sorry this book didn't meet your expectations. It's a letdown when you hope to enjoy a book and it's not as good as you hoped.

I hope the next fews books you read you enjoy more
~ Amy

Aths said...

I had a lot of hopes for this book. I get what you mean - the story is good, the "perspective" is right, the character is talking about whatever the book is about, and yet you can't connect to the character. It's like the character isn't genuine or trying too hard. I feel sad when that happens.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've been meaning to read this one; so happy you enjoyed it!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Mrs. DeRaps, Amy and Diane--The book isn't bad, it just wasn't that it could be, does that make sense?

MissAttitude--Brick was a good character and I agree that we didn't need Roger's version. But, we did need to get Nella's story out and I guess Laronne did that. I felt like I missed the biracial stuff since that's how the summary presented the book

Aths--I agre: good story with so much potential!

Mari said...

Thanks for an honest review. I may hold off reading this one.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Mari--be sure to look around the blogosphere as well since there is a real variety of reviews on this one

Chelle said...

An interesting "companion" novel is Nella Larsen's Quicksand published in 1928. It's a slim book but is very similar to The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. I really liked Larsen's novel.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Chelle--Thank you for the recommendation, I'll have to look into Quicksand

Vasilly said...

Ugh! Too bad the book didn't live up to your expectations! You've made some excellent points about wanting to know more about the character being biracial. I haven't read this book yet but I thought it would be about the same thing. Great review. :-)

Helen's Book Blog said...

Vasilly--It's funny, I wouldn't have cared about the biracial issue as much if I read it without hearing the synopsis first. Publishers should really be careful about what they say the book is going to be about

M (@notarevolution) said...

I found you through the POC Challenge Link-Up. I'm participating too (via Twitter and Goodreads, I don't have a blog) and I read this book in March (haven't posted my link yet, though I plan to do so in the next few days). I've been hearing so much praise of it everywhere, I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. But I had the same experience as you - I really wanted to like it, but it didn't work for me. Particularly, as you mentioned, biracialism seemed to be a highlight of the book blurb but it didn't seem to have enough emphasis in the book itself.

I look forward to seeing your other reviews!

Helen's Book Blog said...

M--I am so glad you came by, I really must do more of visiting through the challenges that I am doing! Glad to hear I am not the only one with the reaction that I had