Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was looking forward to reading this book as I had heard of Emanuel Jaques and the murders and their effect of the gay community of the time, culminating in the bathhouse raids of 1981 and the real beginning of gay rights in Canada. This was truly a watershed moment, but no book has ever been written on the case and details are hard to find. When you talk to local gay Torontians about the murder, there is still a lot of emotion around the treatment they were subjected to at the time, being lumped in with pedophiles and murderers and several said they couldn't read this book.
The book starts off very well, painting an incredibly vivid portrait of Toronto's Portuguese community that leaps off the page. The book is set in the year I was born, but images like "the lid of a Bick's pickle jar held tightly under his arm. I could see bugs trying to climb up the side of the jar, only to slip down before they reached the top" still rang very true to my life.
The book continues and we meet Antonio's father, one of the most lovable characters with Ricky, and his broken English. The author recounts a protest march the Portuguese community held with signs like "TAR AND FATHER THEM" which is great.
The book starts to falter with more characters being introduced. Although the author writes description and setting amazingly well, human interaction seems forced. The characters communicate with each other at breakneck speed and while I had the impression the author was clear on what was happening to whom, the reader doesn't always. Many times I found I didn't know who was speaking or what they were talking about or what past event they were referencing. Everyone in this book has their secrets and it's just overdone. Antonio for example goes through far too many things to be believable and with all the action the characters come off underdeveloped. I agree with another reviewer who said the author did too much and too little. Too many events, too many secrets, I couldn't keep them all straight. Was the mother having an affair, and how is there 50 pages of exposition over witnessing one kiss? It seemed like there was a whole backstory there we never got to here. Similarly James, we're set up by the book to like and believe Edite and when she tells Antonio early on he's a good guy, we believe her. I've finished the book and I don't think he was.
Near the end I was just reading it to finish it. The book got outlandish with the patron saint Antonio, and while I found the part with Ricky moving I found it a bit manipulative. I would suppose the moral of the story is that children are taken advantage of by adults in lots of ways, just like the Jaques boy, but I don't know that that is the moral I wanted.
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