Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

No, I haven't discovered the missing Larrson novel. Just by coincidence, the book I picked up next happened to have a similar title. Heidi W. Durrow's novel was recommended to me by a bookseller back in November. The novel is told from a number of points of view, varying chapter-by-chapter, but the main character is a young girl Rachel Morse who survived a fall from a rooftop in which her mother and two brothers died. She is sent to live with her paternal grandmother and to make a new life as the new girl. Fitting in becomes more complicated on a number of levels: Rachel's mother was a Danish woman who had married a black American serviceman. She inherited a mix of features that leave her father's hair and her mother's striking blue eyes. A thread of the plot addresses the way in which race shapes how we view ourselves and how others see us.

Among the minor characters is a young boy James, who changes his name to Brick after witnessing Rachel and her family's fall. He runs away from home--already an unstable environment, since his mother ignores him in favor of her Johns--when the police try to question him about the fall. Most of the characters in the novel are directly or indirectly affected by alcohol and drug addiction. The one stable adult in Rachel's life is her the fiance of her aunt who dies as the result of a drug reaction after a freak accident. This man is protective of her, giving her an opportunity to work with him and others in a rehab facility. Most of the characters, including Rachel, have many layers of character, and even the plot leaves readers questioning just what exactly made Rachel's mother Nella grow so hopeless.

Ironic, isn't it, that this particular "Girl Who" story leaves the Scandinavian region for America, but leaves a young girl fighting for her life.

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