What’s Things That Fall From The Sky it all about?:
The title story in this collection introduces us to a librarian called Katherine whose life is becoming slightly jaded and meaningless until she meets an old man called Woodrow who manages to change her perspective on things.
What did I think?:
Things That Fall From the Sky involves a woman called Katherine B (There are two other Katherine’s working in the library the author tells us, who have been labelled Katherine A and Katherine C). Katherine appears to enjoy her job as a librarian although she feels rather disillusioned with the rest of her life, and may also resent being labelled in her employment as just “one of the Katherine’s.” I found this particular quote both resonant of the struggles experienced by our main character and beautifully poignant:
“It’s as if my life were being displayed before me on a table: I could carry it off in my hand, place it in a box or a drawer, and forget that it was even there.”
One of her sons, Peter has fled from the family nest, and she rarely has contact with him, apart from the odd perfunctory voice mail on her machine, which often seems hurried and left out of duty. The other son, Tanner, has given her a grandchild, Robin whom she adores, but on a visit to his home, Katherine overhears an altercation between Tanner and Robin, which ends in him smacking the child. This combined with his inattention to his mother and selfish focus on his own needs has the effect of making Katherine feel like she hardly recognises her own son.
Katherine is working in the library on an ordinary, routine and dull day when she comes across an eccentric old man, Woodrow who is testing the theory about objects falling from the sky with two library books, held at the same level to see which book will fall first. He takes a shine to Katherine, and Katherine to him after a brief moment of confusion, as she begins to see what Woodrow can teach her about life. The next day she finds a strange note attached to her car from Woodrow containing a number of statements about strange things that have fallen from the sky over history. This is just one of the list as an example which I loved:
“Portland, Oregon. 1974. Ms. Cora Block heard something on the roof of her house that, she said, “sounded like hail.” When she went out to investigate, she found that her front yard and roof were both covered with live frogs. At first she thought that somebody was playing a practical joke on her, but she could see nobody in the area. The last few frogs fell as she was watching. The sky was clear.”
Over the remainder of the story, Katherine’s perspective and outlook on life changes with the help of her quirky new friend. In this way, there is hope for her recovering her sense of self and enjoyment of the remainder of her years.
Personally, this was another one of those stories that I had to read a second time to fully appreciate the beauty of what the author had done. I have to admit, I finished it on the first reading, and frowned wondering what all the fuss was about, so re-visited it the next day with a clear head, and something clicked into place. The most amazing part of this story however had to be the list that Woodrow leaves Katherine of “things that have fallen from the sky.” I’m wondering if this may be a constant feature of Brockmeiers work as I remember something similar being done with the first story in the collection – “These Hands.” If so, I’m definitely looking forward another instalment!
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: In Winter The Sky by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You