Overview

Kicking the Sky dares to tell the story about the messy dark side of a big city through the clear eyes of a twelve-year-old boy . . . A courageous novel.” —Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun

It was 1977 when a shoeshine boy, Emanuel Jaques, was brutally murdered in Toronto. In the aftermath of the crime, twelve-year-old Antonio Rebelo explores his neighborhood’s dark ...

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Kicking the Sky

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Overview

Kicking the Sky dares to tell the story about the messy dark side of a big city through the clear eyes of a twelve-year-old boy . . . A courageous novel.” —Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun

It was 1977 when a shoeshine boy, Emanuel Jaques, was brutally murdered in Toronto. In the aftermath of the crime, twelve-year-old Antonio Rebelo explores his neighborhood’s dark garages and labyrinthine back alleys along with his rapscallion friends.

As the media unravels the truth behind the Shoeshine Boy murder, Antonio sees his immigrant family—and his Portuguese neighborhood—with new eyes, becoming aware of the frightening reality that no one is really taking care of him. So intent are his parents and his neighbors on keeping the old traditions alive that they act as if they still live in a small village, not in a big city that puts their kids in the kind of danger they would not dare imagine.

Antonio learns about bravery and cowardice, life and death, and the heart’s capacity for love—and for cruelty—in this stunning novel.

“The intensity and fragility of boys on the cusp of adolescence is vividly captured, as is the portrait of a community whose insularity is both its strength and its weakness.” —Shyam Selvadurai, author of The Hungry Ghosts

“Impressive . . . [De Sa] 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.” —The Toronto Globe and Mail

Kicking the Sky bridges its polarized worlds, staying true to the humanity in each. It’s one of the best things fiction can do.” —The National Post (Canada)

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 04/01/2014
At the core of De Sa's (Barnacle Love) coming-of-age story is an element uncommon to such narratives—a true crime. In 1977, 11-year-old Emanuel Jacques was kidnapped, brutalized, and killed in Toronto, Canada. As we learn through this book's narrator, Antonio Rebelo, a boy from Emanuel's neighborhood, the murder changed the lives of Emanuel's family, their close-knit Portuguese immigrant community, and the city itself. Trying to sort out his turbulent feelings and how those closest to him are reacting to the tragedy, Antonio discovers an unsavory world of sex workers, family secrets, and much more. At the same time, he struggles with changes in his own body as he matures. VERDICT These heartfelt, intertwining stories depict the immigration of Antonio and his father, Manuel, to Canada, and deserves a key place in immigration literature. A complete success.—Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH
Publishers Weekly
11/25/2013
This intricate coming-of-age debut novel from De Sa (author of the story collection Barnacle Love) finds its setting in an insular Portuguese neighborhood in 1970s Toronto. Twelve-year-old Antonio Rebelo’s mother, Georgina, is a hospital worker who picks worms on the side, and his father, Manuel, is a custodian and dump truck driver. Their neighborhood is shocked by the grisly kidnapping, torture, and murder of Emanuel Jacques, affectionately known as the Shoeshine Boy. Antonio and his best friends, Manny and Ricky, live amid the growing anxiety and hysteria triggered by the slaying. The boys befriend James, an older “gigolo” who works for Antonio’s father and initiates Antonio’s homosexual awakenings. When Antonio “sees” Jesus, his opportunistic father erects a shrine in his garage where the Catholic faithful flock, seeking the benefits of Antonio’s new miraculous powers for a cash offering. As the criminal trial for Emanuel’s vicious killers unfolds, Antonio finds he has achieved a new level of maturity. (Mar.)
Booklist
“De Sa’s well-realized coming-of-age story is distinguished by its setting in a traditional Portuguese community on the brink of change.”
Booklist
Reviews

“De Sa’s well-realized coming-of-age story is distinguished by its setting in a traditional Portuguese community on the brink of change.” —Booklist

“[An] intricate coming-of-age debut novel.” —Publishers Weekly

“Impressive . . . [De Sa] 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.” —The Toronto Globe and Mail

“Rich and compulsively readable . . . A novel that, like most of the good ones, is funny, heart-breaking and humane.” —The Toronto Star

Kicking the Sky bridges its polarized worlds, staying true to the humanity in each. It’s one of the best things fiction can do.” —The National Post (Canada)

“A coming-of-age story with a vengeance--not just an individual, but an entire community--Kicking the Sky also captures a small but enduring turn of the historical screw.” —Maclean’s

Kicking the Sky dares to tell the story about the messy dark side of a big city through the clear eyes of a twelve-year-old boy teetering on the fence between observer and victim . . . A courageous novel.” —Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun

“The intensity and fragility of boys on the cusp of adolescence is vividly captured, as is the portrait of a community whose insularity is both its strength and its weakness.” —Shyam Selvadurai, author of The Hungry Ghosts

From the Publisher
“These heartfelt, intertwining stories depict the immigration of Antonio and his father, Manuel, to Canada, and deserve a key place in immigration literature. A complete success.” —Library Journal

“De Sa’s well-realized coming-of-age story is distinguished by its setting in a traditional Portuguese community on the brink of change.” —Booklist

“[An] intricate coming-of-age debut novel.” —Publishers Weekly

“Impressive . . . [De Sa] 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.” —The Toronto Globe and Mail

“Rich and compulsively readable . . . A novel that, like most of the good ones, is funny, heart-breaking and humane.” —The Toronto Star

Kicking the Sky bridges its polarized worlds, staying true to the humanity in each. It’s one of the best things fiction can do.” —The National Post (Canada)

“A coming-of-age story with a vengeance—not just an individual, but an entire community—Kicking the Sky also captures a small but enduring turn of the historical screw.” —Maclean’s

Kicking the Sky dares to tell the story about the messy dark side of a big city through the clear eyes of a twelve-year-old boy teetering on the fence between observer and victim . . . A courageous novel.” —Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun

“The intensity and fragility of boys on the cusp of adolescence is vividly captured, as is the portrait of a community whose insularity is both its strength and its weakness.” —Shyam Selvadurai, author of The Hungry Ghosts

Jim Lynch
“De Sa’s well-realized coming-of-age story is distinguished by its setting in a traditional Portuguese community on the brink of change.”
Booklist
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-09
A scrappy immigrant community in Toronto in 1977 sinks deeper into superstition and violence after a child's murder; a pubescent boy struggles to comprehend the events in this gritty second book from Canadian De Sa (Barnacle Love, 2008) based on real events. Confused by his own impulses and the behavior of those around him, 12-year-old Antonio Rebelo is coming of age amid contradictions and perhaps danger. The discovery of local shoeshine boy Emanuel Jaques' body has resulted in demonstrations against the gay community. Nearer to home, James, an attractive, mysterious stranger, possibly a male prostitute, has set up house in a neighbor's garage. When a local underage girl falls pregnant after sex with her stepfather, James takes her in. Antonio and his friends, one of them serially abused by his father, hang out with James, sometimes stealing bicycles. Then Antonio sees the face of Jesus in a limpet shell and suddenly becomes the local miracle child, a healer and a source of income for his father. De Sa's novel, a feverish portrait of the impoverished but colorful Portuguese community, is sporadically sympathetic but more often spiky, laden with abusive childhoods, unreliable adults and dangerous sexuality. As the lies, disasters, disappointments and disillusionments accumulate, Antonio's group of friends and family fractures, and his childhood comes to an end. A largely bleak vision, top-heavy with angst and tragedy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616203931
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 3/25/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

ANTHONY DE SA grew up in Toronto's Portuguese community. His short fiction has been published in several North American literary magazines. He attended the Humber School for Writers and now heads the English department and directs the creative writing program at a high school for the arts. He lives in Toronto with his wife and three sons.
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