The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow

The Girl Who Fell from the SkyI saved this book to read with my book club because it seemed like the sort of book that would have a lot of thinky bits to talk about, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it to said book club meeting due to unexpected depressing vacation, so I didn’t really get a chance to refine all the thinky thoughts I wanted to about this book before committing them to the internet. Oh, well, it’s the internet, no one will notice!

But really, this is just the sort of book you need to unpack with a friend or two. It’s a fairly quiet book and for most of the book it doesn’t really seem like anything is happening, but by the time you get to the end you’ve learned a lot of things about the characters and about life in general and you’re like, huh.

A lot of details are parceled out piecemeal over the course of the book, so there are probably unintended spoilers ahead as I forget what we know at the beginning of the book and what we learn later. Fair warning!

Okay, so, this girl who fell from the sky is our protagonist, Rachel, who literally survived a fall off the top of an apartment building — a fall that killed the rest of her family and left her to be shipped off to Portland to live with her grandmother. After a childhood in Germany and an all-too-quick stint in Chicago, Rachel, daughter of a black American father and a white Danish mother and now living with her father’s mother, finds it difficult to navigate the racial complexities of middle and then high school. She also finds it difficult to properly remember her parents, who left her under very different circumstances, neither of which Rachel can understand.

Rachel’s story in the present is told in a pretty linear fashion, following her as she grows from a child to a teenager. Her story in the past, on the other hand, is largely told through other people’s eyes, specifically her mother’s, in the form of her mother’s diary of their life in Chicago, and those of a young boy who saw “the girl who fell from the sky” as a child and who becomes kind of obsessed with her in the mostly non-creepy way of a child. All of these points of view weave together a story that is incredibly sad and makes me want to hug all the people and pets and inanimate objects that I like a lot.

I’ll admit that that’s not quite what I was expecting when I picked the book — with a title like that I was ready for more action and intrigue than quiet reflection, but I quickly got over that and enjoyed the book quite a bit. I would still love to talk thinky thoughts with other people about some of the specifics, though, so if you read this book, share yours with me!

Recommendation: For thinky thought thinkers and those who enjoy a multiple-point-of-view story.

The Weatherman’s Daughters, by Richard Hoyt (5 May — 11 May)

Um. Well. Maybe I should learn to read the flap more closely. I picked this one up at the library because of its interesting title and the image on its cover — fish raining down. I looked at the flap. “Two daughters of a Portland weatherman have been killed for no apparent reason and John Denson and his Native American partner, Willie Sees the Night, are called from their remote cabins on Whorehouse Meadow in the Cascade Mountains to help. But for once Denson is stumped—this is a trail he can’t seem to follow.”

Okay, cool, right? Murder, interesting-sounding detective, let’s go! And the first part of the book is cool like that. Denson is out driving when a waterspout causes a rain of salmon; when he pulls off to take some photos and video, he finds a dying body whose last words are “Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle ther. Gurgle, gurgle, ister. Gurgle, gurgle ill gurgle.” Yeah.

So then, there’s some stuff about the ethics of releasing the salmon storm video, and then eventually we get back to the mystery at hand, and then someone else is dead, oh no!, and then Denson goes on some acid-tripping spirit walk and meets his creator (no really, he meets Richard Hoyt at his house in the Phillipines) and something about owls, and then there’s an exotic dancer and a militia and then more killing. I kept going because I really did want to know who killed the weatherman’s daughters, but then the mystery got “solved” and I still don’t really understand what happened. Blast.

And if I had just read the rest of the flap, wherein the out-of-body flying and exotic dancers, and bear gall bladders are mentioned, I might not have picked it up and wasted that week of reading. Oh well.

Rating: 4/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2003, Support Your Local Library Challenge)