In this artful, cerebral novel spanning four decades and encompassing the tribal conventions and counterculture movements of the 70′s and 80′s, the reader is plunged into a cunning world of philosophy and hedonism that is best described as baroque rawness or stark-naked grandiloquence. If these terms appear to be incompatible pairings, the reader will grasp the seeming polarity as axiomatic soon after feasting on Edie Meidav’s complex narrative style. A carnal vapor infuses every provocative page of this unorthodox psychological crime thriller.
“In his mid-forties, he feels heâ€™s come to a pretty good place in his life, and he couldnâ€™t have got there if he hadnâ€™t been able to survive some of his earlier selves, forgiving, maybe, but also forgetting, even erasing. From his present vantage point, it isnâ€™t exactly magnanimity he feels toward the passionate but confused graduate student heâ€™d been twenty years ago. From that time onward heâ€™s been acutely aware of the importance of chance in the affairs of human beings, and he hopes itâ€™s given him a better understanding of people who are down on their own luck. But what he feels toward the person heâ€™d been then is mostly relief that heâ€™s been able to move beyond him.”
Family sagas have long been a staple among American best-sellers; the examples are wide and vast. The very predictability of the family saga genre promises an absorbing yet familiar reading experience: the once-poor yet highly attractive and charismatic main character who overcomes all kinds of adversities, goes through heartbreak and scandal, and then emerges older, wiser, and in most cases, wealthier than before (or at the very least, with enough knowledge to BECOME wealthier).
Itâ€™s 1987 and New Yorkâ€™s lower east side and alphabet city are places for the homeless, vagrants, the impoverished, hippies, some immigrants who have held out through the next generation and some younger folks who call themselves “straight edge.” Straight edge refers to teenagers who like hard rock and punk but live a straight and clean lifestyle â€“ no meat, no sex, no booze and no drugs. Many shave their heads and are into tattoos. Thatâ€™s what TEN THOUSAND SAINTS by Eleanor Henderson is about â€“ a group of straight ddge teens and their parents trying to understand themselves and one another as they venture through life, a lot of it in alphabet city in Manhattan.
It amazes me that THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY is Heidi W. Durrowâ€™s debut novel. It is poetic, poignant, beautiful and elegiac with the panache of a seasoned writer. Once I started it, I could not stop thinking about it. It haunted my days until I finished it. Durrow has a talent that is rare and brilliant, like the northern lights.
February 11, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 1980s, Alcoholic, Algonquin Books, Chicago, Identity, Portland Â· Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Bellwether, Class - Race - Gender, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, US Midwest, US Northwest, y Award Winning Author
Just now and again in this novel, as in the quotation above, one gets a glimpse of Bernhard Schlink the moral philosopher who probed so deeply into the German past with his novels THE READER and HOMECOMING and especially the non-fiction GUILT ABOUT THE PAST. But readers looking to this novel for deeper insights will be disappointed. Although the publishers do nothing whatever to indicate that this is not a new novel, its references to Francs and Deutschmarks, to East Germany as a separate country, and to the still-standing World Trade Center show that the book is not of our time. It is in fact a translation of a comparatively early novel by the German author-jurist, first published in 1988. This matters little to readers willing to accept the book on its own terms, but will disappoint those expecting to follow the recent development of Schlink’s sophisticated thought.