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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky [Paperback]

Heidi W. Durrow
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.47 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 April 2010

A bizarre mystery surrounding a family tragedy forms the centrepiece of this atmospheric story of a mixed-race girl’s struggle for identity.
Orphaned and alone, young Rachel is taken under the wing of her strict African-American grandmother and moved to a mostly black community where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and astonishing beauty start to attract a troubling level of attention. As the terrible secrets begin to emerge, Rachel learns to swallow her grief and construct her own self-image in a world that wants to see her as either Black or White.
Inspired by the true story of a mother’s twisted love, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is a lyrical and poignant journey into loss, trauma, and the kinship that eventually allows a young girl to face the truth, confront the demons she has buried, and finally achieve a sense of peace.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851687459
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851687459
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


“The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is that rare thing: a post-postmodern novel with heart that weaves a circle of stories about race and self-discovery into a tense and sometimes terrifying whole.”

(Ms. Magazine)

"There's a poetry to these characters that draws you into their lives, making for a beautiful and earnest coming-of-age novel that speaks as eloquently to teens as it does to adults."

(Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2010)

"Taut prose, a controversial conclusion and the thoughtful reflection on racism and racial identity resonate without treading into political or even overtly specific agenda waters, as the story succeeds as both a modern coming-of-age and relevant social commentary."

(Publishers Weekly)

"Durrow fits a striking cast of characters and an almost overwhelming sequence of traumas into this compact and insightful family saga of the toxicity of racism and the forging of the self... Durrow brings piercing authenticity to this provocative tale."


"A heartbreaking debut … keeps the reader in thrall."

(Boston Globe)

"An auspicious debut… [Durrow] has crafted a modern story about identity and survival."

(Washington Post)

"Hauntingly beautiful prose … Exquisitely told … Rachel's tale has the potential of becoming seared in your memory."

(Dallas Morning News)

"[An] affecting, exquisite debut novel ... Durrow's powerful novel is poised to find a place among classic stories of the American experience."

(Miami Herald)

"The Girl Who Fell from the Sky can actually fly. . . Its energy comes from its vividly realized characters, from how they perceive one another. Durrow has a terrific ear for dialogue, an ability to summon a wealth of hopes and fears in a single line."

(The New York Times)

"Overall, I enjoyed this debut novel"

(Bookbag -

"With different characters narrating, it examines a bi-racial pre-teen's struggle to carve out a future"

(Pride Magazine)

“Tender and evocative, funny and moving... a delicately nuanced meditation on race.”

(The Times Literary Supplement)


"Heidi Durrow is a wonderfully gifted writer who can summon a voice, a memorable character with bold, swift strokes … a gem."

(Jay Parini - author of 'Promised Land')

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable 27 Sep 2011
Rachel, a young biracial girl, experiences a horrendous family tragedy in Chicago, then goes to live with her grandmother in Oregon. It's hard to be the new girl in class and to make sense of her past. As she grows into her teenage years, she discovers boys and struggles with her emotions. The story also follows Brick, a boy who witnessed Rachel's trauma, and we see how that day affected his life.

This is quite a wonderful and unique book. Each chapter focuses on an important character's point of view; Rachel's chapters are told in her innocent, honest voice. She accepts her heartbreaking experiences as normal and our hearts break for her. The author's technique of telling us only tiny bits of information at a time makes the book a real page-turner that is impossible to put down.

I felt so protective of Rachel and Brick and loved their story. The author has created unforgettable characters and a storyline that gives you a lot to think about. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 5 Aug 2011
By RParks
Having an interest in American literature and also being mixed race one could say that this book was written with me in mind. Perhaps this allowed me to relate to Rachel's story that little bit more than others. However, i cannot imagine that anyone with an appreciation for literature could finish the last line of this outstanding novel and feel cheated out of the hours it took them to read it. It is an intriguing insight into the mind of a child growing up among prejudice and having to carry the horror of a truly harrowing experience. The way in which Heidi W Durrow reveals this is complex and very well written.

An excellent read and well worth a 5* review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bigotry Comes in All Colors 15 Sep 2013
By BeatleBangs1964 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Rachel, 11 is biracial. Her mother is Danish and her father is black. Rachel spent her early childhood in Germany and did not give her rich racial heritage much thought. She is brown in coloring and her eyes are blue. When Rachel and her family are struck by tragedy after moving to the United States, Rachel is sent to live with her paternal grandmother in Portland, Oregon. The neighborhood in which Rachel's grandmother lives is predominantly black.

Once in Portland, Rachel is literally hung up between two sticks. She is the target of insider bigotry. Other black kids pull her hair and accuse her of having delusions of Caucasian superiority because she does not fit a racial mold. The age old racist claim of "thinking one is white" simply because they don't use bad grammar and street argot or act like an unflattering stereotype is one that irks me to no end. It is one thing to adjust one's speech accordingly, but NEVER dumb down for anyone. Using good grammar and demonstrating a good vocabulary is one good way to command respect.

While I'm at it, good grammar and a large vocabulary is not exclusive to ANY race. There is NO legitimate reason to deed over one's right to speaking the Lingua Pura to others lest they be ostracized or targeted for attack for not using street argot. I have always believed that bad grammar and street talk is a DEPLETION of language and a form of shackling oneself to stereotypes and carry overs to a bad time in history when knowledge and learning were denied to blacks. I feel very strongly about this and I will admit that I never liked street talk and feel that it does not speak to class. Trying to enforce other members of a particular group to speak and act in stereotypical ways is the modern day equivalent of slavery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Story 8 May 2012
Rachel is the new girl. Rachel is biracial and is living with her Grandmother after a terrible tragedy back in Chicago, of which Rachel was the only survivor. The author, Heidi Durrow is the daughter of a Danish mother and an African-American father, just like Rachel, and it is clear that she has drawn expertly from her own experiences when writing Rachel's story.

Set in the 1980s, and with a theme of racial identity, this is an intelligently written and very moving story. Chapters are narrated by various voices, those of Rachel herself; Brick - a young boy who witnessed the tragedy, Roger - Rachel's estranged Father, and Laronne - the employer of Rachel's mother. Also interspered throughout the book are parts of Nella's (Rachel's mother) diary. These different voices and the writings of Nella give different views and reasons for the terrible event that happened that day in Chicago - when a Mother and her three young children fell from the roof of a multi-storied building.

For the first time in her life, eleven-year old Rachel realises that she is either 'black' or 'white', she finds herself under intense scrutiny from the people in her Grandmother's community, almost an oddity, with her mocha coloured skin and her clear blue eyes. Rachel also has a strength of character and a level of intelligence that could almost be viewed as a hardness by others, she has to deal with her own coming-of-age alongside the pain of losing her family and trying to deal with who and what she is.

Rachel and Brick are amazing characters. Brick (aka Jamie) lived below Rachel and her family in the aparment block in Chicago. He is a quiet boy, neglected by his drug-addicted mother and abused by her many visitors.
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