August 2021

Skye Falling

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When traditional family structures let people down, families of choice, bound together by love and respect, give love freely.
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You can’t escape your past. It’s one of the oldest literary motifs around, yet it feels fresh in Mia McKenzie’s Skye Falling. The novel explores how dealing with painful memories and embracing anger can unlock a freer future—but only if you’re brave enough to try.

Most people wouldn’t call Skye brave; they would call her the poster child for insecure attachment. Her father was physically and emotionally abusive, and her mother let it happen. Now Skye, a 38-year-old Black travel guide, flits from bed to bed and from country to country, only occasionally stopping home in Philly to see her one remaining friend.

Skye has avoided dealing with her traumatic childhood and would probably continue to do so if she could. Then a 12-year-old girl named Vicky shows up. She is the product of the egg that Skye donated when she was broke in her 20s. Skye learns that Vicky’s mother has died from cancer, and now the spunky, headstrong tween wants a relationship with Skye.

A more simplistic story would be one in which, all of a sudden, Skye realizes it might be time to grow up. But Skye Falling is a more complex expansion of what it means to be maternal and nurturing, and how we may fulfill those needs ourselves. Throughout the novel, traditional family structures let people down. It is the families of choice, bound together by love and respect, whose support is given most freely.

Skye Falling is multilayered in the best way as it explores Skye’s character growth. McKenzie weaves together several themes—gentrification, racism, child abuse, grief and Skye’s relationship with Vicky’s queer aunt, Faye—and each topic carries equal weight. For a novel that addresses many serious subjects, the story never feels heavy. That’s a credit to Skye’s narrative voice, which McKenzie infuses with both a sense of humor and strong opinions.

Readers will wish for a happy ending for Skye. But more strongly, they’ll wish for a follow-up to Skye’s (and Vicky’s) story.

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