It’s been a little while since I’ve reviewed a book on my blog. In all honesty I couldn’t get into the last four or five books I started. I would carry them around for a week, read about a hundred pages, and then give up completely on them. Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa is the first of the last five novels I’ve started that I actually finished (and in less than a week!).
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.
My initial interest in this novel was due to its setting in Portuguese Toronto. My mom is Portuguese and it was nice to read and understand a few Portuguese words and see that my mother had some of the same traditions as Antonio and his community. When edged me to read on was how dark and emotional the novel became. I became so attached to the three boys that their struggles and their fears haunted my dreams. There are many sad and sinister characters in this novel, as well as, many misunderstood characters. There are boys growing into men and trying to find their way and there are women living in constant fear of the truth, sweeping it under the rug and hiding from it the best they can.
The great thing about Kicking the Sky is that even if you can’t directly relate to the main characters, you can still sympathize with them. You can still learn the same things that they learn, you can still be part of their journey. A journey that ends in the realization that the truth is always better than a lie and that fear of anything can ruin your life.
‘No, you were right. And deep down it feels food to tell the truth because that’s the only way you can move on” (Page 302)
I must warn you that you may get sucked into this novel to the point where you’ll get caught reading it at work. You’ll get so into the novel, the story, and the characters that your heart will ache. Kicking the Sky is one of the most emotionally charged novels I’ve read in a while, and although it is fiction it speaks of many truths from that time. It’s beautifully written with an eye for detail and believable characters. You will not regret meeting Antonio, Ricky, or Manny. Nor will you regret being thrown into their Portuguese community filled with food, moonshine, miracles, and a few superstitions. You will not regret any of this because somehow this novel will help you find your way and shed some light on your current situation.
‘Don’t be afraid, that’s all.’ She blew her bangs into the air. ‘It’s when you’re afraid that bad things happen.'” (Page 73)