Completely biased reviews: Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa [updated]
This is the first post in a new series of biased reviews, wherein I review books written by friends, colleagues and associates.First up is Kicking the Sky by Antony De Sa.Last week, I went to the launch party for this book. It was possibly the largest and happiest book gathering that I've ever been too.Much of that warmth came from Anthony, who is blindingly charismatic on stage. In the photo to the left, he is talking about a fig that his uncle had given him that day. The fig was from a tree that was brought from Portugal.I took the photo from a table where I sat with his agent, Denise Bukowski. She is also my agent.After speaking, Anthony signed books. There were so many people buying the book that the publicist had to run out to fetch more. Twice.I waited in line to give Anthony a hug because I am fond of him, but gave up after a while. I took a photo of Anthony greeting well-wishers instead.In the photo below, the woman over his left shoulder is the lovely Val Gow, Imprint Sales Director for Random House of Canada. She will be responsible for selling my novel when it is published in February.I met Anthony about 7 years ago at a party in our agent's apartment. We had a great talk about writing and have kept in touch since.I know the look that Anthony is giving me in the photo to the left.It's the look that says, "writing a book is hard work and now that it's published I wouldn't change a thing, but I am working even harder."I know what the look says even though I don't know, because I am superimposing my own worries about publishing a book onto Anthony's photo. In all likelihood, my impression has little to do with him.Or maybe it does, because Anthony and I are friends.Set in 1977, Kicking the Sky takes place around the murder of Emanuel Jaques, a boy who was shining shoes in downtown Toronto when he was lured away. The crime serves as the back drop, but the story centers around Antonio, who we follow as he struggles to make sense of the world beyond the alleys of his west Toronto home (he travels on a banana-seat bike).This is a breath-taking book. It is hard to read at times, but those hard parts also let the reader inside the mindset of a community, recent immigrants from Portugal, in a way that would otherwise be hard to reach. The hard edges are softened by Antonio, who is sweet, inquisitive and hopeful.The novel captures an era in Toronto and made me nostalgic. It also reminded me that I am glad our city has changed.For those who are not from Toronto, the book paints a vivid portrait of a 1970s community of recent immigrants who are blending their experiences from the old world into a new place. It will open up questions about our children's safety and how we balance it against their need to roam, explore and grow.A child can, as Antonio shows us, only discover a city as his own. As a mother, he brought me solace. It can be a hard world beyond the fences of our backyards, but there is always a way through.(I first posted this biased review on Goodreads.)Update: Proving my point about warmth, Anthony emailed to say, "I was looking straight at you in that photo and I was saying with my eyes, 'those five years were all worth it! When family and friends, and people you've never met, celebrate the book.'"