Friday, January 28, 2011

"The Girl Who Fell From the Sky" by Heidi Durrow

Published: 2010
Read: 2011
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 1980's; Chicago, Portland
Rating: 4
Awards: Bellweather Prize for Fiction
Review: The Prairie Library
Author's book web site
Heidi Durrow's "Light-skinned-ed Girl" web site

A short book and therefore a quick read but the characters and topics are disturbing and haunting.  I saw this in a Washington Post book review a while ago and since the topic appeared to be about suicide, I wanted to read it.  Glad I did.  It is a story of surviving.

Rachel - survivor
Nella - Danish mother "mor"
Roger - Black father, military
Robbie - brother
Grandma - Roger's mother
Aunt Loretta - Roger's sister
Charles - brother
Laronne - boss

Suicide and surviving suicide
Bi-racial marriage and children
Family tragedies

Quotes:  I wrote the quotes and thoughts in my journal and will probably write a post on Josh's blog

How Rachel deals with her grief and anger:
"When something starts to feel like hurt, I put it in this imaginary bottle inside me.  It's blue glass with a cork stopper.  My stomach tightens and my eyeballs get hot.  I put all of that inside the bottle."   Then later: "I open the blue bottle.  Mad goes in there too."

Last time things:
"I am caught in before and after time.  Last-time things and firsts. Last-time things make me sad like the last time I called for Mor and used Danish sounds.  I feel my middle fill up with sounds that no one else understands. Then they reach my throat.  What if these sounds get stuck in me?"

Do I have lines or an edge in my smile?
"It's easy to smile just to make other people feel better.  But when a person fakes happy, it has edges. Regular people may not see, but the people who count, they can see the edges and lines where your smile ends and the real you, the sadness or the anger, begins....You shouldn't hold onto things that give you edges."

Keeping sadness company
"The sadness is coming over me....I can't get rid of the sadness."  "Well...then we'll just keep it company."

The other side of the story:
"If there's no one else to tell another side - the only story that can be told is the story that comes true."

Grief as a barrier in relationships:
"We live in the same house but we both feel lonely.  We and lonely don't belong in the same sentence.

Dreams with low skies:
"The way Grandma paints her dream for me, there's a low sky."

Author inspiration for the story:
On the author's personal blog, she talks about how the book is based in part, on her life, but also on a true story.  This quote is taken from the site, posted on June 28, 2006.

the story is autobiographical only insofar as it is about a biracial and bicultural girl growing up in the northwest.  i guess that is to say: the confusion of the character is a confusion i experienced.  but, the story--the girl who survives the family tragedy--well, that's inspired by a real story i read about in the news many years ago.  so, as i think about the story of the story: i realize that i wrote this novel because i wanted to imagine the young girl's life--but now, the young girl must be going into puberty--and teenager-hood.  i think i will try to find her.

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