The Sky Below
Stacey D'Erasmo
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Buy *The Sky Below* by Stacey D'Erasmo online

The Sky Below
Stacey D'Erasmo
Mariner Books
288 pages
April 2010
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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For Gabriel Collins, the main protagonist of The Sky Below, life is but a series of boxes each fragmenting into kaleidoscopic parts, some vivid, some murky, some jagged, and all consecutively plummeting, changing and whirling. Like ďa penitent, a messenger, a delicate angel scurrying from temple to temple, tie flapping,Ē Gabrielís story begins in Bishop, Massachusetts. When his father suddenly disappears, leaving behind his bad debts, the family heads to Florida, where Gabriel and his older sister, Caroline, help their mother run the Sunburst, a dilapidated and ramshackle motel situated in front of a noisy two-lane highway.

A selfish and callow manipulator, Gabriel grows older, soon learning the monetary value of sex, pleasuring transient men in bus station bathrooms while selling drugs with Jenny, his overweight school friend. Sexually ambivalent to the last, Gabriel will stop at nothing to satisfy his urges, resorting to desperate measures, lying and cheating. Meanwhile, his mother takes charge of the Sunburst with a vengeance, too preoccupied with scraping out a living to worry about Gabrielís ever-increasing escapades.

For Gabriel, life at the Sunburst feels like purgatory, ďa hot scrubby drive to nowhere.Ē He aches for his life back in Bishop, where his masterpiece, The City, was made from opened Christmas boxes, torn wrapping paper, and murals. A beast that gradually grows and metamorphoses, the inevitable domestic confrontation with his mother occurs. While Caroline remains staunchly behind Paul, Gabriel makes the decision to seek artistic inspiration somewhere else.

Eventually ending up in Manhattan, living in an apartment in 7th street and working near to the Stock Exchange among the shadowy blocks in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Gabriel remains caught in his fatherís enormous, spectral grip, a transistor radio the only remnants that his father ever existed, along with the scrappy dollar notes and the stolen trinkets that he keeps in shoe boxes under the bed.

Here, living a fractured life, Gabriel meets the aging author Fluer, helping her write her Stolen Girls series and embarking on a new and clandestine career as a blackmailer. A natural schemer, Gabrielís freezer steadily fills with nice, cold, foil-wrapped bricks of money, courtesy of his new, wealthy benefactor.

Still, Gabriel is confronted with enormous challenges, especially the affordability of a house on Pineapple Street that heís always wanted and is sure heís going to get. To further complicate the situation, the inevitable dramas occur, making him question his relationship with his wealthy lover, Janos, and his intimate friendship with his best friend, Sarah, who leaves him to marry a puppeteer.

In multi-layered and provocative prose, Stacey DíErasmoís protagonist is almost a burnished mythical god, a fallen angel mirroring the legendar half-bird, half-warrior Tereus. Gabrielís spiritual journey through New York then onto Ixtlan, Mexico, is loaded with surprises, yet throughout his travails he remains discontented and even vengeful. This rather unlikable manís internal battles rage even as he develops a rare form of cancer that ďroars like a lionĒ through him. As dense and haunting as the constantly shifting skies that mirror Gabrielís life, this novel is a poignant reflection of a young manís fervent need to belong and to make peace with the world and the choices that he has made throughout his life.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2009

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