Heidi W. DurrowHeidi W. Durrow

Reviews for The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

"Out of the clear blue, here is a breathless telling of a tale we've never heard before. Haunting and lovely, pitch-perfect, this book could not be more timely."

Barbara Kingsolver

"The characters in this novel, about a girl who survives falling from a building’s roof, are so vivid, I longed to know what happened after the story ended."

Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help

"A remarkable novel. It unfolds its secrets with the perfect placement of a mystery—I had trouble putting it down—while its core story about a mother's desperate act recalls the insights of a writer no less than Toni Morrison. Durrow writes fearlessly about race, memory, and family—she is a writer to watch."

—Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories (National Book Award Finalist)

"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."

—New York Times Book Review

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

—Miami Herald

"Durrow has written a story that is quite literally breathtaking. There were times when I found myself gasping out loud . . . I was pulled along each step of the way, wanting to know more."


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

—Washington Post

"A heartbreaking debut . . . Keeps the reader in thrall."

—Boston Globe

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

—Dallas Morning News

"Like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill A Mocking Bird . . . A captivating tale that shouldn't be missed."

—Denver Post

"Rachel’s voice resonated in my reading mind in much the same way as did that of the young protagonist of The House on Mango Street. There’s an achingly honest quality to it; both wise and naive, it makes you want to step between the pages to lend comfort."

—NPR's Morning Edition

"A complex, serious novel of interracial life in America . . . Both gripping and instructive reading."

—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[A] stunning first novel . . . What makes Durrow’s novel soar is her masterful sense of voice, her assured, nuanced handling of complex racial issues—and her heart."

—Christian Science Monitor

"Simply put, Durrow has written a beautiful novel . . . I simply hope it will be widely read."

—The Oregonian

"There’s a poetry to these characters that draws you into their lives, making for a beautiful and earnest coming-of-age novel."

—Louisville-Courier Journal

"Sky is a time-fractured mystery told by a cast of rotating narrators . . . A successful first novel in the vein of The Lovely Bones or Getting Mother’s Body."

—The Stranger

"A layered narrative that weaves themes of race, class, and beauty into a page-turning plot."

—The Rumpus

"Well worth the read. When one considers that Durrow has achieved with her first novel something reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, or even her masterpiece Beloved, then The Girl Who Fell from the Sky soars to the height of a novel not to be missed."


"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.com, Best Book of the Month selection, February 2010

"A striking cast of characters . . . [An] insightful family saga of the toxicity of racism and the forging of the self . . . Durrow brings piercing authenticity to this provocative tale, winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction."

—Booklist (starred review)

"Artfully constructed and beautifully written, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is at once a meditation on race and those who bridge its arbitrary distinctions, and a mystery that involves and holds the reader to the very last page. Durrow writes with smarts and sensitivity about those who claim more than one identity, and who point us toward a future in which all of us, of any race, will claim to be American."

—Hettie Jones, author of How I Became Hettie Jones

"In Heidi Durrow's story-telling, one hears echoes of the early Toni Morrison, resonances with Langston Hughes's fiction about coming-of-age and dawning racial consciousness, and an inner voice never heard before, conversing with Nella Larsen about how things have been since she left. A stunning debut for a talented novelist, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky will be read and re-read as one of the most convincing, original, and moving novels in the distinguished canon of American interracial literature."

—George Hutchinson, author of In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line

"Like a good mystery, this book builds to the startling revelation. [O]ne can’t help but be drawn in by these characters and by the novel’s exploration of race and identity."

—Library Journal

"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

"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

"The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is seriously wonderful. I love it! The story is compelling from page one to the very last. Durrow’s writing pulls no punches – her voice is true and fresh, the story believable. This book, this story is why we read, to experience beautiful insightful story telling – truths told in a very human way with the complexity and understanding. I will be talking this one up a lot."

—Marilyn Smith, Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA

"The beauty of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, which is told in several spare voices, is the skillfully shifting narration. As we piece together what happened on the slum rooftop that day, where the characters came from and what became of them, we get the story from different people, angles and times, always coming back to Rachel, the smart, beautiful survivor, and her singular voice. This is a masterfully woven tapestry of strong characters and the circumstances that shaped them, with Rachel the one you'd most like to meet."

—Bill Reed, Misty Valley Books, Chester, VT

"The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is stunning. I am struck by Rachel and Brick—how she showed their growth, their developing minds, emotional growth, their growing up process. Durrow managed to "grow them up" but kept the core of who they are as beings. I would know Rachel at 17 from what I learned of her at 12, and Brick, too. He was a particularly endearing character. I will hand-sell the hell out of this novel here in Olympia. That's a promise."

—Sarah Tavis, Orca Books, Olympia, WA

"Rachel is a girl with a tragic secret, thrust from her home to live with a distant grandmother she doesn't know. Struggling to overcome her sorrows, she tries to make sense of a new racial identity she didn't know she possessed. In doing so, she strives to find her own sense of self, defined neither by the rigid structures of her grandmother nor those of an increasingly volatile society. An outstanding, original new voice in fiction."

—Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, S. Hadley, MA

"While my next assignments languished on my bookshelf, I read this debut novel compulsively, start to finish, not expecting to be consumed by the story to the extent that I was. But like Rachel, I fell and couldn’t stop. The timely, painful truths of Rachel, her parents, and her society are much too credible: poverty, the angst of racial conflict and identity that kids are made to feel, the schism between loyalty to family and survival. I wanted to write to Rachel – “Don’t give up! You can make it.” Every book club should read this one."

—Cheryl McKeon, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park WA

"Wow! I read a lot of good stuff, from some amazing authors (yes, it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it!) and still I say “wow”! I couldn’t put it down. I was intrigued by the characters and engaged by the story, as it was one of those books that when I finished I just wanted more. I just wanted to take a minute and tell you how much I enjoyed The Girl Who Fell From the Sky."

—Lori Cardiff, St. Helens Book Shop, St. Helens, Oregon

"When Rachel, a mixed race girl, suffers a terrible tragedy, she inherits a very troubled history. Although she's just a child, Rachel rises to the occasion, doing her best to piece together her past. She survived once and as readers of this wonderful new novel, we root for Rachel to survive the rest of her life free of the demons and pitfalls that seem part of her DNA. But beyond the plot, bi-racial Rachel offers a glimpse of the world through her beautiful stop-you-in-your-tracks eyes that feels both immediate and important too."

—Candy Purdom, Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL

"This debut novel is the winner of the 2008 Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice, which unfortunately sounds like a dry textbook assigned in school. However this astonishing novel is anything but. Apparently inspired by a real event, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is the story of Rachel, a biracial daughter who is the sole survivor of a family tragedy. Durrow works magic with each of the character's voices, and as the haunting story unfolds we learn both secrets and answers. Part love story, part mystery, this is an unforgettable portrait of a young woman confronting prejudices of class, race, and even beauty, as she struggles to survive. This is a book you hold to your heart."

—Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

"Durrow's novel is so beautifully written and quietly powerful I had trouble putting it down. The story of Rachel a daughter of a Danish mother and Black soldier who after surviving a family tragedy ends up living with her father's mother in Portland Oregon. Rachel is confronted with issues no child her age should have to confront, but her grit and determination help her come to terms with what life has dealt her. I can't say enough about how well this book was written and have already passed it along to other staff to read."

—Sue Richardson, Maine Coast Book Shop, Damariscotta, ME

"The child of a black G.I. father and Danish mother, Rachel never felt that she had to choose between her parents until a tragic event leads her to live with her black grandmother. In this new setting, she discovers that she doesn't measure up to others' standards of "blackness," but she's not "white" either. Durrow's deft portrait of Rachel's struggles to figure out who she is and where she belongs are a resonant reminder of the stereotypes that are perpetuated, often despite the best intentions."

—Sandy Scott, The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT

"It says a lot that this debut novel has already won The Bellwether Prize (an award for literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships). It says a lot that Durrow is being compared to Toni Morrison, Nella Larsen and the early Langston Hughes. What can't be said until you read it for yourself is how deeply the reader will grow to care for Rachel, the lone survivor of her mother's attempted murder/suicide (her brother and baby sister were no so lucky) who has come to live with her grandmother in Portland in the early 1980s. Rachel is biracial, but her remaining extended family and the kids at school see her as black, something Rachel had never before thought about. This coming of age drama is woven into the mystery of what happened to push her mother over the edge and is told over the course of several years. It's full of characters whose whole lives were changed that day by the tragedy that day, and things come full circle in a deeply meaningful and satisfying way. I found it very difficult to put this book down. This is a powerful read and an amazing first novel by a new voice to watch in literary fiction."

—Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO

Praise for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky [PDF]