Title: Skye Falling
Author: Mia McKenzie
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: June 22, 2021
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
A woman who’s used to going solo discovers that there’s one relationship she can’t run away from in this buoyant novel from the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of The Summer We Got Free
Twenty-six and broke, Skye didn’t think twice before selling her eggs and happily pocketing the cash. Now approaching forty, Skye moves through life entirely–and unrepentantly–on her own terms, living out of a suitcase and avoiding all manner of serious relationships. Her personal life might be a mess, and no one would be surprised if she died alone in a hotel room, but at least she’s free to do as she pleases. But then a twelve-year-old girl shows up during one of Skye’s brief visits to her hometown of Philadelphia, and tells Skye that she’s “her egg.” Skye’s life is thrown into sharp relief and she decides that it might be time to actually try to have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.
Things gets even more complicated when Skye realizes that the woman she tried and failed to pick up the other day is the girl’s aunt and now it’s awkward. All the while, her brother is trying to get in touch, her problematic mother is being bewilderingly kind, and the West Philly pool halls and hoagie shops of her youth have been replaced by hipster cafes.
Told in a fresh, lively voice, this novel is a relentlessly clever, deeply moving portrait of a woman and the relationships she thought she could live without.
Main character Skye is definitely an acquired taste in this funny yet touching novel set in West Philadelphia. Skye is a loner by choice, always fleeing before friendships, relationships, or family can make too many demands on her. She’s abrasive and off-putting, and has basically one friend left who puts up with her selfishness and unreliability.
Skye runs a tour company that specializes in international experiences for Black travelers, and she’s wildly successful. It not coincidental that leading tours around the globe pretty much nonstop means she never has to stay put for very long in any one place. Her life is filled with adventure and one night stands, and she prefers to keep it that way.
All this changes when 12-year-old Vicky shows up in Skye’s life and reminds her of that time way back when, when Skye donated eggs to Cynthia, a former friend from summers at camp. Cynthia has recently passed, Vicky is being raised by her aunt Faye, and guess what? She’s Skye’s egg. Initially, Skye’s reaction to this news is to both vomit and then try to climb out a window to escape (seriously), but she starts to come around to the idea that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have a connection to someone — someone who’ll maybe take care of her in her own age. (Once again, Skye’s selfishness is front and center — it’s about her, not about Vicky.)
For once, Skye decides to stay put in Philly and get to know Vicky, and as she does, a new bond starts to grow between the two. And staying put, Skye is forced to start dealing with the trauma and bad memories of her youth, rather than always running away at the first hint of having to be serious.
Complicating matters too is Skye’s growing attraction to Faye, which may or may not be reciprocated, her long-ignored relationships with her mother and brother, and confronting memories of past rejections that may not be as clear-cut as Skye would like to think.
It’s really hard to like Skye, and at first, I absolutely didn’t. She’s mean to people, irresponsible, and doesn’t seem to care about anything or anyone. Gradually, though, we get to see how much of her personality and her actions are defense mechanisms based on escaping her past, and as Skye starts to (finally) mature, she slowly starts to become a person who gets involved and actually cares.
Vicky is a terrific character, and she’s not all sweetness and light. She’s dealing with her own set of traumas, including losing her mother, having a stepmother she hates, and living in a gentrifying neighborhood where the newly arrived white neighbors feel the need to call the cops on the long-term Black residents over so-called noise infractions. While the book focuses on the personal relationships, it also pays great attention to the world around the characters,
Overall, Skye Falling was a quick read, and I while I always felt at a bit of a distance from Skye, I did enjoy the relationships and getting to know the characters and the neighborhood.