This 2010 publication won the Bellwether Prize for fiction (an award featuring social justice) that year. It could be categorized as a YA novel, but it had great appeal to me as an adult reader. The heroine, Rachel, whose unusual blue eyes are often mentioned, is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I.
After the family tragedy that happened in Chicago, which defines the rest of her life, she goes to live with her grandmother (on her father’s side) in Portland. The novel deals with the issue of whether Rachel is “black” or “white”–she doesn’t fit in with either. A parallel story finds Jamie, later known as “Bricks,” who lived in the apartment projects where Rachel’s family “ended,” leaving her the only survivor. Jamie is a witness to the tragic event.
The story unfolds, layer by layer, with anecdotes about each of the main characters alternately, until they meet serendipitously near the end, and Jamie helps Rachel find her identity–herself. Rachel’s quest and ability to overcome great loss testify as to the strength of her character and her tenaciousness. Jamie is also an overcomer, and the adding of his strength to Rachel’s allows the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, which is the plot, to fit together in a satisfying way. Durrow writes a poignant story which makes the reader sigh as she reads the last words.