ARC Book Review: Hanna Who Fell from the Sky by Christopher Meades
ashley | The premise of Hanna Who Fell From The Sky by Christopher Meades was what caught my eye. I’ve read a few books about cults and some with polyamorous story lines, but I was curious to see where Meades would take this, and exactly how the concept of Hanna falling from the sky would come into play.
Things start off relatively normal. Or at least normal for the town for Clearhaven, a town where men take on multiple wives and girls are wed off at 18. Hanna is approaching her 18th birthday and preparing to discover who her betrothed is to be. She’s struggling with this (duh!) and then meets a boy who raises a few other questions for her as she tries to come to terms with her future. This is all somewhat expected. It wasn’t until Hanna’s mother retells her the story of her origin that my interest was highly piqued. Spoiler alert: Hanna fell from the sky. Or not. It’s not super clear whether this is true or a metaphor. But there was definitely more to who Hanna was and where she came from and that is what pushed me forward.
There was a lot about this book that gave me the creeps. Cults/secluded communities like this fascinate me, but they are also just so eerie and every time I read about them my stomach turns. And yet I keep reading. The men in this community were definitely pushing my comfort zone with their thoughts and even their actions. It was really difficult for me to read this, knowing that for years this community has done nothing about their actions or implications and this is the norm for what these women have to live with. It infuriated me to the point where I was aching for something more to this than just this darkness that kept probing at Hanna anywhere she went.
Truthfully, I was bothered by a few things in the core of the book that had a huge impact on my overall enjoyment. One glaring issue I had was that so many people seemed to have some knowledge of what lay beyond The Road. Not just the men, I understand them keeping that a secret because Clearhaven is basically their holy kingdom on earth, but families have traveled there, women had lived there before and then came to Clearhaven. So many people had a glimpse into what life is like outside of this little community and yet no one stood up against the positions they were put in within the community? Or there were no legends about people who did stand up and suddenly disappeared or were shunned, a fear driven reason why these women should do nothing? I’m not trying to downplay the manipulation and brainwashing that takes place in situations like this, but there seems like there were a lot of windows into the outside world that should have made some of this secluded, submissive community crumble. I mean, Hanna’s world started to crumble with one short meeting with a cute boy who asked a few simple questions. I find it hard to believe no one else experienced a similar thing.
I also would have liked a bit more character development to set the story, I felt like I didn’t know Hanna at all and all these things that were happening to her seemed really random and kept taking me by surprise. It’s been said a few times in other reviews that the magical realism here kind of comes out of nowhere, and I agree. It is scattered too scarcely through the first half of the book that I kept forgetting there was something more happening and then when it was all finally revealed, it was still very obtuse. It doesn’t once reveal exactly what the author is trying to make Hanna into (other reviews explained what this twist was much better than the book) and when I discovered what this was supposed to be, it only made me angrier because Hanna did nothing with it. Sure, she tried to run away with her sister, she claimed she wanted to protect her family, but I found a lot of her actions and sentiments were really selfish and when she discovered her greatness, it was disappointing that she didn’t do more with it and the ending wasn’t more climactic. There’s something special about her, that much is clear, but the book doesn’t go into enough detail about it to make the actions of other people believable or make her own actions justifiable.
I also had a love hate relationship with Hanna herself. She really started to irritate me. I appreciated and respected her struggle between rebelling against something she had always grown up with, but one minute she’s throwing punches at her father and disgusted by the state of her life and concerned for her siblings, and the next she’s sneaking off in the middle of the night to see a boy she hardly knows and go gallivanting into the city to see a concert. She was just super inconsistent and her flippant attitude annoyed me. It was like she wasn’t taking this situation seriously at all. It made me want to scream.
Her relationship with Daniel, it was tolerable at first, though bordering on quick and random, but then bam, they’re talking about each other being the one after a week? Hanna tried to justify her feelings and acknowledged the short time period, but I felt no real connection between them and it just didn’t cut it for me.
As a whole, the book read well, the writing was on point and I enjoyed the inspiration behind the story that the author talks about in his note at the end of the book, but I had a hard time pushing through the middle without rolling my eyes or getting frustrated with the whiplash of Hanna’s indecisiveness. I think this could have been quite good, but I just did not enjoy the majority of it.
today! september 26, 2017