Rachel lives with her grandmother now, she’s the new girl. Life used to be different. There used to be Mor. There used to be her father. There used to be Robbie and the baby, Ariel. It was just Rachel and her grandmother now. There is aunt Loretta, her beauty and sophistication seem too much for this world.
Grandmother is old school, but is a good person. Rachel doesn’t bring up her past all that often. Why doesn’t anyone want to speak about her mother, Mor? She never pushes the subject too hard.
Rachel makes herself new; Rachel makes herself black. Rachel’s mother was not black, but Danish. Rachel looks the part, except for her blue eyes. Rachel learns to be all of something she’s only half of. She learns to forget about Denmark and her mother, but she never truly forgets.
At the same time a boy who calls himself Brick, sees a bird fall from the sky, but it’s not a bird. Brick loved all the birds in the bird book he stole from the library, but one day he knows he needs to leave. A man named Roger taught him how to play the harmonica. Brick knows he will find one of the birds who fell from the sky.
As time goes on, a sad story of abandonment and alcoholism surfaces in Rachel’s life. Why did the people who were closest to her do what they did? What happened to make their lives turn out the way they did? Can Rachel really be that new girl?
What I liked
This was a sad story told from three or four different points in time. The pieces weave themselves together. The secrets surface.
This is a psychological tale in many ways. Rachel tries to make herself this new person; she practically forgets everything about her past before one particular moment in her life happened. The memories are seemingly erased from her existence. People are erased from her existence. This is something we do as humans. If we have a traumatic time period, we try to forget that time period. Trust me, there are large portions of my growing up life that I flat-out don’t remember because I didn’t want to. Many of us have these periods of our lives. I think this book is a great way of illustrating this concept, but are those moments ever truly gone from our lives?
What I didn’t like
There is a huge struggle in Rachel to be one thing or the other. She’s half Danish and she’s half black. Which part is she supposed to be around other people? Why does she even have to pick? Rachel does end up picking. She ends up becoming one thing, when in reality, she should have been allowed to be a combination of both. This is a struggle many children of mixed races go through. I never really experienced this myself because I’m mostly white and I have always passed for white, but I have friends who don’t necessarily know what part of themselves to identify with. Are they supposed to be white? Are they supposed to be Egyptian? Are they supposed to be Apache? Who are they supposed to be to everyone else?
If we had it together, we would all just be people and nobody would have to figure any of this out.
On top of severe tragedy and trauma, Rachel has a place she has to figure out in regards to race, that’s pretty much just adding insult to already severe injuries.
I will say that once Rachel does feel she has something of a place with people, her life has a bit of structure to it. She gets to be a little more comfortable in how she lives her life. While it’s not exactly an ideal situation, Rachel does manage to get some stability out of the whole thing, if just a little bit.
I will never understand why people do some of the things they do.
Do you think Rachel would have fared better had she gone to live with her Danish family? Why or why not?
Do you think it’s a good thing that Rachel forgot her past or not?