The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky

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The boy who fell out of the sky hardcover edition.jpg
First hardcover edition
Author Ken Dornstein
Country U.S.
Language English
Published 2006 (Sceptre)
Pages 368
ISBN 978-0340899663

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky is a 2006 memoir by Ken Dornstein about his older brother David Dornstein, who was killed in the Pan Am 103 bombing on December 21, 1988.[1] David had dreamed of becoming a great writer, but died at the age of 25 without having published anything. The book traces his younger brother's attempt, years after the crash, to finally get to know and understand him, through research, interviews, and David's own voluminous writings: letters, drafts, and innumerable spiral-bound notebooks filled with "(r)andom thoughts, poems, dream images, bizarre theories, pretend interviews, scalding self-critical passages and the outlines of impossibly grandiose projects."[2]

David and Ken Dornstein grew up in Pennsylvania; David was six years the elder. After graduating from high school he attended Brown University. David dreamed of becoming one of the world's great writers, although most reviewers say that his writing wasn't very good.[3] At the time of his death there were reports that he had with him on the plane "the manuscript of a brilliant novel eagerly awaited by an American publisher", but in fact "(t)here was no great novel, and there was never going to be one."[2] Ken went on a years-long investigative trek, sorting through the "Dave Archive" of his brother's writings and traveling all over the country as well as to Lockerbie and The Netherlands to piece together the story of David's life and death.[2]

Ironically, in a college writing class David once wrote "the first draft of a work he thought might be his ticket to immortality. It would be a fictional autobiography, the story of an unknown young writer who dies in a plane crash, leaving behind a cache of papers and notebooks that the narrator stitches together into the story of the writer's life. Someone else, it turns out, lived to write that book."[2]

It was reported in 2007 that Warner Brothers is working on a film adaptation of the book, to be adapted and directed by Niki Caro.[4]


Gilbert Cruz of Entertainment Weekly called the book "half an account of Ken's life-halting obsession with reconstructing his mythical older brother and half the biography that David always expected as a soon-to-be-famous author."[5] Matthew Sweet of The Independent wrote, "Ken Dornstein's project—his researches and the book that they have become—is both a loving tribute to the memory of his dead brother and an act of destruction and erasure... This book is an act of love, but it is also an expression of the power of sibling rivalry."[6] Carla Blumenkranz of The Village Voice wrote, "This is not a book to be read twice: It hurts too much, and it's not to be forgotten."[7] Louise Carpenter of The Telegraph said, "The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky is accomplished in so many ways: part thriller; part elegy; part biography; part meditation on grief. The technicalities of the story – the crash, the trial of the Libyans 10 years later - are handled with a reporter's precision. But more than anything else, (Ken) Dornstein is a wonderful writer. His brother David wanted to be a great writer. He died too soon for us to know if he ever would have been."[3]


  1. ^ Dornstein, Ken (2006). The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky: A True Story. Sceptre. ISBN 978-0340899663. 
  2. ^ a b c d Grimes, William (April 19, 2006). "A Brother's Journey for the Truth About Lockerbie". New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Carpenter, Louise (August 13, 2006). "Woolly hats and Fluffernutter spread". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Bruno, Mike (March 30, 2007). "Whitaker set to join Reeves in LAPD drama". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Cruz, Gilbert (March 29, 2006). "Book Review: The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky (2006)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Sweet, Matthew (August 20, 2006). "Book Review: The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky by Ken Dornstein". The Independent. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Blumenkranz, Carla (February 28, 2006). "For David, with Love and Squalor". Village Voice. Retrieved 25 January 2015. 

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