Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, by Hiedi W. Durrow

Another great local author! Well, localish - among the many places she's lived, she counts Portland as the one she hails from. The book is great, and the author is nothing short of amazing. She's already been extremely successful in both academics and several varied careers. She hosts the annual Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival, and my favorite thing, co-hosts the weekly podcast, Mixed Chicks Chat, with her friend and colleague Fanshon Cox. Listen to it here, you'll be glad you did. As long as you're on her site, read her quick interesting bio and look at her family photo albums.

Okay, enough hero-worship, on to the book. This is one of those that should be extremely depressing, but somehow isn't. It is certainly heartbreaking; the eleven-year-old protagonist loses most of her family in a tragedy, which remains shrouded in mystery until the end of the book, and even then is fairly incomprehensible.  It is just about the complete opposite of Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto, which I finished a couple of days earlier. That book was all finely wrought physical details, and little sense of the world outside. This novel is made up of a series of events, clearly stated, reacted to, and reflected upon.

Although it's not very long, an awful lot happens in this novel. The protagonist, Rachel, is a child of mixed race and nationality. She has lived most of her eleven years on Army bases, unaware of the oddity of having a black American father and white Danish mother. When most of her family dies in a bizarre accident, she is sent to live with her grandmother in Portland. Here she is quickly made aware of racial differences; in Portland, she is black.

This is one unlucky family, and Rachel seems to be the only one who is holding up. The story unfolds in waves, following Rachel, a boy who witnessed the accident which killed her family, and a former friend of her deceased mother. Most of the members of her family buckle under the sorrow of loss, but this girl is tough. Come to think of it, I'd be tempted to classify this as YA, though it doesn't seem to be advertised as such. It has all the hallmark of good YA lit; a young heroine who makes her mistakes but stays true to herself, an out-of-the-ordinary friend who makes the real difference in her life, messed-up adults to rebel against... I recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. I'll put it on the list. All of the books that you brought and put your seal of approval on at the book exchange were fabulous. Just got done reading Ahdaf Soueif's, Map of Love. Loved it.