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Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa

Kicking the Sky

by Anthony De Sa

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I read Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa several years ago, before I was familiar with the genre of CanLit. I thought it was really unique to see Canada through the eyes of a first-generation Canadian, showing the difficulties of the language barrier and conflicting feelings the characters had regarding their heritage.

Anthony De Sa is an incredibly talented writer who is able to really capture his characters. Kicking the Sky is a coming-of-age story, of both a boy and a city. Narrated by 12-year-old Antonio, the story takes place in Toronto in the summer of 1977 shortly after a shoeshine boy named Emanuel Jaques was lured into an apartment above a body-rub parlor where three men tortured, raped, and then murdered him. Antonio and his friends have always roamed their neighbourhood, but following the murder of the shoeshine boy, their world changes—their families and neighbours are greatly impacted and terrified for the safety of their children. Yet, as young boys, they are intrigued and drawn toward the excitement and terror of the downtown porn theatres and love shops.

De Sa, writing from a place he knows well (he was roughly the same age and living in Toronto in 1977), captures Antonio perfectly. Although it opens with the murder of Emanuel, this is not a mystery novel. Kicking the Sky is a bildungsroman through and through. The story captures not just what Antonio is feeling, seeing, and hearing, but what he is trying to understand about the world and society around him. De Sa delivers this tale with deft skill, crafting an almost poetic narrative throughout the novel. ( )
  monnibo | Aug 30, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Not to my personal liking. The beginning was very slow to me and topics weren't of any interest to me. I never made it past 150 pages.
  kittylee66 | Mar 1, 2015 |
Listening to this audiobook brought me back to a time when the world is just being revealed to this young person. I was close to Antonio's age in 1977 and I can recall the feelings of protection from my parents, but yet wanting to venture on my own as new things are experienced. Listening to this novel brought many memories back for me.

Antonio is our twelve-year-old main character who lives with his parents in a predominantly Portuguese neighborhood in Canada. Life seems pretty normal for Antonio and his friends, but things take a drastic turn as events unfold throughout the novel. Antonio certainly didn't expect to become a religious icon just from eating a meal at the dinner table. This seemed to be more of a burden than a blessing to Antonio, and luckily the faith the neighbors placed in him stopped abruptly.

When James moves into a garage in Antonio's neighborhood, all the young boys become intrigued by him. He is an older boy, living on his own, who can do basically anything he wants and also has dirty pictures hanging on the garage walls. The boys are drawn to James because he enjoys spending time with Antonio and his friends, and doesn't treat them like children. James has a dark side that he tries to keep hidden from Antonio, but unfortunately some of Antonio's friends become corrupted by James charms.

A murder takes place in the beginning of the novel, setting the tone for discord and danger. Marsh did a great job of narrating this book, bringing to life Antonio's character while allowing me to recall precious memories from my own childhood. With themes of murder, faith, and friendship, you may enjoy this book as much as I did. Even though this is considered a Young Adult novel I don't hesitate in recommending this book to anyone for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion. ( )
  jo-jo | Feb 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Really enjoyed this book, although based on a very sad true story. I remember the media's version of the murder of the "Shoeshine Boy". But in this story the author takes the reader into a heart wrenching "behind the scenes" look at the lives of a close knit Portuguese community in Toronto and the effect the murder had on these people. It is rich in culture, characters, and real life experiences. A beautifully written novel. ( )
  LorettaR | Feb 5, 2015 |
Growing up in Little Portugal in Toronto. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Anthony De Sa’s story collection, 2008’s Barnacle Love, was shortlisted for both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Toronto Book Award. The author’s long-awaited first novel is a powerful follow-up to this impressive debut. [...] At least initially, Kicking the Sky does not boast the kind of amped-up drama that its background context might lead readers to expect. However, the confident narrative voice guides the reader into increasingly dark territory, and the Bildungsroman gradually morphs into full-fledged horror.
added by monnibo | editQuill & Quire, Angie Abdou (Oct 1, 2013)
Anthony De Sa may be the most impressive two-book-oeuvre writer in Canada. His first, the story collection Barnacle Love, published in 2008, was a memorable evocation of life in Toronto’s Portuguese community, and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Toronto Book Award. If De Sa’s second book, the novel Kicking the Sky, had been on this year’s Giller long list, which was announced Monday (it isn’t), I wouldn’t have been surprised. If it isn’t on the Toronto Book Award list, I’ll be shocked. De Sa, who is described on the book’s cover as a librarian-teacher in Toronto, has given us a beguiling coming-of-age story – harked back to an event that shocked the country and had massive repercussions – and at the same time managed to beautifully capture a community and an era.
As we move though our lives, morphing from child to youth to grown-up, our immediate surroundings seem to change dramatically, too. And so the deep woods bisected by the dreamy river where we once pretended to be part of Robin Hood’s band eventually become just a patch of bush with a tiny creek.

For someone well into adulthood, the laneways and scrappy back garages of inner-city Toronto are utilitarian places of storage and transit, part of the world of workaday concerns. But one of the many pleasures of Toronto writer Anthony De Sa’s lively debut novel, Kicking the Sky, is how it evokes the city’s murky alleys the way an adolescent might perceive them — as places of escape from parental oversight, of derring-do and camaraderie. De Sa, author of the Giller-nominated 2008 short story collection Barnacle Love, seems to really understand the promise and danger these hidden alcoves hold for kids.
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For my wife, Stephanie, and for our wonderful boys—Julian, Oliver, and Simon
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The old school bus screeched to a stop. It always arrived at the same time, just after I'd gone to bed. It parked in from on Senhora Gloria's bungalow across the street. Senhora Gloria was the neighborhood gossip who saw and heard everything. She knew the details of all out lives, and what she didn't know, she made up. She'd gossip with anyone who had big ears and was willing to listen.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385664389, Hardcover)

On a steamy summer day in 1977, Emanuel Jaques was shining shoes in downtown Toronto. Surrounded by the strip clubs, bars and body rub parlors of Yonge Street, Emanuel was lured away from his friends by a man who promised some easy money. Four days later the boy's body was discovered. He had been brutally raped and murdered, and Toronto the Good would never be the same. The murder of the Shoeshine Boy had particularly tragic resonance for the city's Portuguese community. The loss of one of their own symbolized for many how far they were from realizing their immigrant dreams.
     Kicking the Sky is told from the perspective of one of these children, Antonio Rebelo, a character first introduced in Barnacle Love. Twelve-year-old Antonio prizes his life of freedom and adventure. He and his best friends, Manny and Ricky, spend their days on their bikes exploring the labyrinth of laneways that link their Portuguese neighborhood to the rest of the city. But as the details of Emanuel's death expose Toronto's seedier underbelly, the boys are pulled into an adult world of danger and cruelty, secrets and lies much closer to home.
     Kicking the Sky is a novel driven by dramatic events, taking hold of readers from its opening pages, intensifying its force towards an ending of huge emotional impact.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:02 -0400)

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