Aaaaaaaaand we’re back!
Back for our book club, that is. It’s been a while since our last Lazy Lambs post… And naturally this one is running a bit late!
This time, Lazy Lambs switched gears completely and read a more serious book with a different target age-range–Heidi W. Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. Durrow’s debut novel tells the story of Rachel, a mixed-race teenager growing up in the 1980’s and coming of age. Rachel goes to live with her father’s mother and sister after a tragic incident on a roof in Chicago that leaves her mother and siblings dead and Rachel the sole survivor.
Much of Durrow’s story centers around negotiating race and identity. Rachel is the daughter of a white, Danish mother and a black G.I. Her light skin and blue eyes garner a lot of attention when she moves into the black community where her grandmother and aunt live, and Rachel has to learn entirely new rules about what constitutes “black” and “white.”Tennis, for example, is white, along with classical music, golf, and piano. Banjos and harmonicas are more black. Everything has a category.
But it isn’t just Rachel who has to learn to negotiate racial boundaries and identity. Durrow uses shifting perspectives to also explore ideas of black masculinity through the perspective of a young black boy, Brick, whose story is bound-up with Rachel’s—Brick saw the family’s fall from the rooftop; and to explore the complexities of language and cultural barriers that Nella, Rachel’s mother, confronts.
In many ways, what I wanted was for this book to sloooow doooown. It’s a fairly slim volume, clocking in around 250 pages but encompassing many years of Rachel’s life as well as including the shifting perspectives. The book felt its strongest when the pace slowed enough to draw out the complexities of the characters and the way their situations mirrored one another. Which brings me to my question, which is mostly about form–How do you feel about the shifting perspectives in the book? Do they add to or take away from the story? Which character’s voice would you want to hear more from?
The shifting perspectives were a bit of a surprise for me, as I was expecting to continue in Rachel’s perspective for most of the book. But overall, I thought they deepened the experiences that Rachel had and worked to highlight ways that her story dove-tailed with the stories of those around her. I especially liked the way that Nella was given a voice in the text. (By the by, Nella’s name is the same as Nella Larsen’s first name. Larsen wrote Quicksand and Passing in the 1920s–the novels are both centered on biracial experiences in the U.S., and the epigraph for Durrow’s novel was from Passing.)
Want to join us next time? In March, we’ll be discussing We Should All Be Feminists, a short nonfiction piece by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
In the meantime, give Hannah and Allison a visit for their thoughts on The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.