2007: 104. The Boy Who Fell Out Of The Sky

“The night before my brother dies, I slept fine, back in my old bed in my old room in the the old house where I grew up.”

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky, Ken Dornstein

This is a memoir written by a man whose brother David was killed in the PanAm explosion over Lockerbie Scotland.  It is the story of David’s life, and the man he never got the chance to become. It is also, and perhaps more so, the story of Ken, and how he has lived his life in the wake of David’s - living with David’s writing, and marrying David’s ex-girlfriend.  It is the story of how Ken learned to accept his life, and David’s and understand his brother, and move on, but not forget.  It is quite a book, is what I’m saying.

The thing that makes this book more than just your average misery memoir is how intelligently self aware Ken is in his search to understand David and how David’s life and death have shaped Ken’s life.  Every investigation he does is done with awareness of how odd it is, and how lost he’s been.  Ken is a hell of a writer, and more so, is a hell of a thinker, and overthinker and contemplater, and to me, that notion of telling his story while questioning the whole way why he is doing so is what makes the book worth reading.  

Less compelling, to me, was David’s story.   David was a struggling writer, a man who had a hard time holding down a job, who drifted from pillar to post.  Ken asserts that David wasn’t bi-polar or mentally ill, but the way his life is described, he certainly seems that way.  David’s choices become more understanding when we learn that he was molested as a child, and ponder how that may have affected him, and his feeling of being lost, but the fact is, as clear as it is that Ken loved David, it is equally clear that David, with his desire to live the artist’s life (without creating much in the way of actual art) and he condemnation of people who lived conventional lives, would be extremely tiresome to actually know.  This doesn’t make his story any less tragic or horrible, but when Ken tells you how awesome and charming David was I wasn’t convinced.  The book is absolutely worth reading, but it’s surprising how a writer who can so clearly convince us of his own feelings and questions seemed to be so blind to the way he was portraying his brother’s character.


Recommended for:  Like Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking any egghead over thinker who has suffered loss and needs a non-gushy text to help them process it


Date/Place Completed: 7/12/07; D.C.

Categories:  Non-Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017