Saturday 14 September 2013

Book ~ "Kicking the Sky" (2013) Anthony De Sa

From Indigo ~ 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. 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.

This story takes places in 1977 and revolves around the true story of Emanuel Jaques.  Emanuel was a 12-year-old Portuguese shoeshine boy working on Yonge Street who was lured to an apartment above a rub-and-tug to help move some camera equipment for some quick cash.  Over the span of twelve hours he was tortured and raped and eventually murdered.  I didn't move to Toronto until 1987 so didn't know about this tragedy until I started reading this book.  Gord was born and raised in Toronto and said it was a huge story at the time.

The fictional story revolves around childhood friends Antonio, Ricky and Manny.  They are first-generation Portuguese and live in the Palmerston/Queen Street W area  ... just east of my 'hood so I knew a lot of the landmarks mentioned in the book.  After the death of Emanuel, the Portuguese community becomes very protective.  Twenty-something James moves to a garage in the 'hood the boy starts hanging out with him though there is something about him that makes Antonio uneasy.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I liked it ... it was an interesting story plus it's set in Toronto.  It's written in first person from 11-year-old  Antonio's perspective.  I really got a sense of what it was like to live in Toronto in the late 1970s.  Given the nature of the story, I wasn't expecting it to be a happy one but I was surprised at how dark it was.  The language at times is for a mature reader.

I liked the boys ... each had something wacky to deal with at home.  Antonio's parents have the turmoil of dealing with trying to make it in a new country.  Given that it was a close-knit Portuguese community, we got to know the various family members and neighbours along with their superstitions and beliefs.

I would recommend this book.

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