Picks and Pans Review: The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky

UPDATED 03/27/2006 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/27/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

by Ken Dornstein


Reading The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky is a discomforting, often creepy experience. In part, it's the story of David Dornstein, 25, a wanderer and passionate writer who was a victim of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 22, 1988. But it's also the story of his younger brother Ken, who was 19 and at their father's house in Pennsylvania when that plane fell on Lockerbie, Scotland. After the crash, Ken was haunted by the intense letters that David—a mythic presence to the younger Dornstein—had sent him, and he appointed himself keeper of his brother's flame. During the ensuing 15-year struggle to piece together David's story, Ken pored over David's manic journal entries, which presented a frenzied, often sad, soul. (Convinced he was destined for fame, he had "prepared his 'literary estate' for posterity," Ken writes.) In the end, Ken even married David's college girlfriend. At times, this memoir feels like Ken's therapy: If he can just get the story down, he'll be able to have a life of his own. Still, The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky offers a moving glimpse at the lengths it sometimes takes to make peace with the past.

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