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THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY by Heidi Durrow: Book 22 of 2011 [BOOK WEEK]

Oh, I am so embarrassed about reporting on this book so late. I actually downloaded it to my then-Kindle when it first came out in January 2010. Then I got an iPad and somehow it didn’t transfer over or maybe I didn’t do it right. I don’t know, but weirdly enough, I accidentally broke the Kindle soon after the big transfer, so it was lost to me. I meant to ask Amazon about this, because I was sure there was some way to get it all fixed, but then I started touring for my own book, things got wiggy, and despite having read and loved the first few pages, I just never got around to it. A few months ago when I moved to a city whose ┬álibrary had an online ordering system, I put in a request for the audiobook. It came in about a month ago, so after a lot of trial and tribulation, I finally got to read this book a year and a half later. And I’m so glad I did. Here are my thoughts:

What It’s About: A biracial girl named Rachel comes to live with her grandma after the majority of her intermediate family dies in a really tragic way.

What Makes It Different: I’ve never read anything quite like this: one part mystery, one part coming of age with racial identity, sexuality, and psyche all thrown into the mix.

What I Loved: First of all, it’s just terrifically written. Durrow is a writer’s writer. I loved that though the book was literary, it wasn’t boring, for reasons I’ll get into below. But most of all, I loved the main character, who is complex, confused, human, and brave. I also liked the way that Durrow dealt with Rachel’s budding sexuality. And on a personal note, as the mother of a biracial daughter, it made me oh-so-happy that we have a will in place, complete with how-to-raise-our-daughter instructions and a stipend for therapy if anything should ever happen to her father and me.

What I Didn’t Like: For most of the book, Rachel has “the unwilling detective” problem, which is understandable and okay for the majority of the novel, when we’re unaware that there’s anything for Rachel to suss out herself. But her unwillingness to ask after her own mystery becomes somewhat uncomfortable for the reader leading up to the climax as she finds and ignores two huge clues. Still, it wasn’t an issue for most of the novel, and Durrow does a better job of explaining what’s in Rachel’s heart and mind than most novelists with the unwilling detective issue do.

Writing Lessons Learned

Mystery, mystery, mystery: As someone who’s not particularly good at mystery, I’m always fascinated by people who are. Durrow is very good at mystery. Basically you’ll hang on every word of Rachel’s story, just to find out what happened. If you’re writing a literary novel and want to make a page turner, a really good mystery can be a really good writer’s best friend.

We are family. I loved that Rachel’s mother, father, grandmother, and aunt were fully fleshed out along with Rachel herself. It reminded me that a main character is comprised not only of herself, but also her family. And the more you know about a main character’s family, the more you can understand her.

Birds: Oh, I just adored what Durrow did with birds in this novel. It was a great lesson in tracing a theme throughout a book and it came back beautifully at the end. Seriously, take notes.

To Whom Would I Recommend this Book: Literary Writers, Survivors of Tragedy, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD Fans, and People Who Like Interesting (As Opposed to Boring) Coming-of-Age Stories.