Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Club Review - The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

Looking for a light summer beach read? Skip, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. But, if you want a thought-provoking drama with rich characters, story and imagery, then you just might want to read this first novel by Heidi Durrow. As the book begins, the main character, Rachel, is just eleven. She has gone to Portland, Oregon to live with a grandmother she hardly knows and she is self-consciously putting on the role of "new girl." We find out quickly that she has been orphaned by a terrible tragedy, she is biracial and the year is 1982. 

Rachel, like the author, has an African-American serviceman father and a Danish mother. Most of Rachel's early life was lived in Europe, so she is unprepared for the response to her racial identity in America. We learn with Rachel what it means to be biracial in America.

The story unfolds in narratives by the main characters; each chapter titled by the character relating their view of the story. Rachel's chapter's are told in first person and they were my favorite. I love the voice that Durrow gives Rachel. She is both a perceptive observer and a determined survivor. By the time she reaches high school, Rachel knows "how to answer the questions differently..., I'm black. I'm from Northeast Portland." Of course these are half truths and lies, but it is easier than trying to explain the complications of her heritage and situation.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky may be a perfect book club book. Hattie's Third Thursday Book Club had a great time digging into the story and issues presented by the book. Not everyone loved the book as much as I did, but I most people felt that it was a worthwhile read. For me, the beauty of Durrow's language triumphed over the sadness of the story. 

Want to read it? Already read it? Leave a comment and get in on the discussion!

Monday, July 18, 2011

First Friday Author - August 5

Every First Friday, Hattie's Books hosts an author. Come by, enjoy some great refreshments and get your copy of the author's book signed! On Friday, August 5th, Jesse Tullos will be signing his book "The Red Terrors," a true story about the players, coaches and fans of Glynn Academy's football team in 1964 Georgia. It is the story of a young coach, and a talented and determined core group of only 14 players.

Jesse Tullos grew up in Brunswick, Georgia, and graduated from Glynn Academy. He currently resides in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Tullos received his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism and retired 35 years later after an award-winning career as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor. In 2007, the South Carolina General Assembly honored him for his contributions to journalism with a formal resolution upon his retirement. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

June Book Club Selection


Hailed as one of the best books of 2010 by The New York TimesThe Washington Post and O: The Oprah MagazineMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson received a big thumbs up from Hattie's third Thursday book club as well.

As with everything we read, there were various degrees of enthusiasm, but I'd have to say that this novel, set in the present day English countryside, was universally enjoyed. I absolutely loved it.

I loved the humorous mix of characters and the story of an unexpected friendship that turns into something more.

First, the story -- Simonson tells a wonderful love story that begins quietly on the first page and continues through to the end. The expected ups and downs of this particular love story focus on cultural and class differences of the pair. Major Pettigrew, born in Lahore (now part of Pakistan) is British. Mrs. Ali, born in England is of Pakistani descent. Both have lost their spouses, both love literature and both love "a properly brewed cup of  tea". Pettrigew is a retired army major, Mrs. Ali is a shopkeeper, soon to be "forcibly" retired by relatives. Many relatives, friends and societal norms complicate matters as their relationship develops.

The characters range from witty, charming and graceful to self-absorbed, stubborn and vain. The central characters, Mrs. Ali and Major Pettigrew are both very likeable, Mrs. Ali for her intelligence and kindness; Major Pettigew for his basic decency and his sense of humor. His barbed musings on his life in Edgecomb St. Mary's are very funny, but his musings about his insufferable son Roger are the best. Although many of the characters border on caricature, I found they mostly lent humor and sweetness to the story.