The Girl Who Fell From The Sky Summary

Heidi W. Durrow

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

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The Girl Who Fell From The Sky Summary

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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010), a novel by Heidi W. Durrow, is told from multiple perspectives, including Rachel, Brick, Roger, Nella, and Laronne. It also jumps in chronological time. The novel won the Bellwether Prize for fiction addressing issues of social justice. The novel’s themes include identity, race, biracial identity, prejudice, family, and how different people may deal with and process moments of grief in their lives.

The novel begins with the perspective of eleven-year-old Jamie. He sees what he thinks is a bird out the window and goes to look.He discovers it is in fact people, who appear to have fallen from the sky. Jamie recognises the family as one that lived in his building, on the ninth floor. The family consists of a boy, a girl, a baby, and the mother. He later speaks to police about what he saw, including a man he saw standing on the roof at the time of the accident. The man on the roof’s name is Brick.

The main protagonist of the novel is Rachel Morse, who originally lived in Chicago with her family. She is the only survivor of the strange and mysterious tragedy that killed the rest of her immediate family. There is a distinct question as to whether or not Rachel’s mother pushed her family off the roof herself. Rachel attempts to deal with her feelings of grief and despair by bottling them up. Rachel’s father, away at a military base in Germany, promised her that he would come to get her. She is sent to live with her grandmother, who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her grandmother seems to think the best thing a woman can hope for is to find a husband and get married. Her grandmother also lives with her Aunt Loretta, who seems to be a good influence on the girl, but tragically she dies. The grandmother buries herself in grief and develops a severe drinking problem, which does nothing to help her relationship with Rachel.

When Rachel goes to school, again she pretends to be normal and happy. She notices the distinct racial difference between the white students and the black students, and that she is the only biracial person. She does not fit in very well, with her light skin and blue eyes. She becomes involved with a boy named Anthony Miller, and says she likes the way he makes her feel. Rachel gives up trying to fit in anywhere, especially school, and calls herself a good student.

Back in Chicago, Laronne is cleaning out the apartment and packing away the family’s things. She was Rachel’s mother Nella’s employer. She packs a box for Rachel, and includes the newspaper article that mentions the man on the roof, Brick, who was a witness to the accident. Laronne hopes this can supply some comfort for Rachel and convince her that her mother did, in fact, love her. Laronne also comes across Nella’s journals, which are sporadically revealed throughout the novel. Nella writes about her constant worry for her children. She says she had no idea that the colour of their skin would cause problems for them, and is beside herself with worry for their safety. She is distraught over the racism she has experienced, and over the course of the novel, her journal reveals the desperate nature of her fear.

The journals reveal what the reader already knew, in part. Nella killed herself by jumping from the roof. When she did, she pushed her son to his death and held onto her baby, Ariel. Rachel managed to pull away from Nella, but jumped after them anyway when she saw her brother reaching for her.

The years pass, and Rachel becomes more and more depressed. On top of constantly waiting for her father to come get her and take her away, Rachel is dealing with the very normal, difficult pressures of growing into a young adult. She is also constantly judged and discriminated against for her biracial skin. When it all seems like it is becoming too much, Brick comes into the picture. Brick was, of course, the young man who saw everything that happened on the fateful day which killed Rachel’s family. He has come to find Rachel, whom he once visited in the hospital when she was still asleep. Back then, he met her father, Roger, and the two quickly formed a bond. Roger ended up telling Brick quite a lot about the family, including a lot about Charles, Rachel’s older brother. In the present time, he visits Rachel at the Salvation Army where she is working for the summer. Brick tells Rachel some details about Charles, whom she never got a chance to get to know. He also says that Roger told Brick to explain to Rachel what happened, and why he could not come back for her. Eventually, with Brick’s help, through understanding the past and coming to terms with the present difficulties, Rachel begins to feel some sort of wholeness. She is able to take the first steps towards healing and stops bottling up her feelings.