Darrow, Heidi W. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. Algonquin Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1565126800 256 pp. $
I finished The Girl Who Fell From The Sky a few weeks ago, and it resonated and lingers.
Brick, a boy obsessed with birds, thinks he sees a large one plummet; it turns out to be a family of three who have leapt from the roof of their apartment building. He is a witness to the triple suicide attempt (two successful, one not) and first on the scene. The survivor, Rachel, struggles all her life to fit in. She’s half-black, half-Danish, lives with her grandmother, and misses the life her mother escaped from.
Told in multiple points of view, I found I had to pay attention to who was speaking and when in time we were, but I never felt lost. Having the speaker’s name at the head of the chapters helped me, but most of the time I could figure out from the language who was narrating, which is a highly prized writing skill.
I loved how the story came together at the end, the imagery and symbolism of birds, and the complexity of figuring out what the “truth” was–what really happened the night Rachel fell from the sky.
The plot is carefully constructed by the author, and I think the allegorical tone of the story helped me suspend any disbelief. The themes of the book tackle many issues, but never felt issue-driven, and the universality of those themes–identity, coming of age, bullying–are highly relatable. I can see this as a book discussion title, for sure; the understated nature and visceral punches remind me a little of Angela Johnson (the subtlety and craft of The First Part Last) or Jacqueline Woodson. I think it has potential appeal for fans of realistic fiction (problem novel) and mysteries.