The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky

This is another suggestion by Nick Hornby (from reading Housekeeping vs. The Dirt). Hornby hasn’t done me wrong yet. In December of 1988, a group of terrorists planted a bomb on Pan Am flight 103 from Heathrow to New York. That plane blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland shortly after takeoff. None of the passengers survived. On that plane was a gentleman named David Dornstein. He was a 25 year old writer, actor, brother, son, boyfriend, Brown graduate, and all-around tortured soul. He was on his way home to Philadelphia to see his family.

David’s brother, Ken, was 19 years old when this happened. This book is partly Ken’s autobiographical account of how he dealt with David’s early death and partly Ken’s devotional to David, whom Ken loved very much. It’s sad man, really sad. But not sad in a way that you get choked up while reading it. In fact, the sadness of the story really didn’t hit me until I started banging this out.

Ken spent about 15 years going through David’s journals, talking to David’s friends and acquaintences, and visiting the places that David had been. David was a starving artist of epic proportions and he left a vast estate of journals. Ken pieces these journals together to give the story of David’s life and tells his own story along the way.

Ken doesn’t sugar coat anything. There is plenty of pain and suffering. For example, their mother had emotional problems and left before Ken and David were teen-agers. Around this time, David was apparently abused by an adult neighbor, which Ken does not find out about this until he starts reading the journals. There is an especially tense moment when Ken meets the perpetrator, but never brings up the accusations.

Ken also ends up building lasting relationships with two of David’s old girlfriends. In fact, he ends up marrying and starting a family with one of them. Ken loved his brother. And he finds out after his death just how much he loved him and how much that love was returned by David, even after his death. It’s not touching necessarily. I didn’t necessary feel any sympathy. It didn’t strike those chords with me. But I loved this book. It’s a slice of humanity that I just found kind of interesting.