Monday, February 11, 2013

Barnacle Love

At the heart of this collection of intimately linked stories is the relationship between a father and his son. A young fisherman washes up nearly dead on the shores of Newfoundland. It is Manuel Rebelo who has tried to escape the suffocating smallness of his Portuguese village and the crushing weight of his mother’s expectations to build a future for himself in a terra nova. Manuel struggles to shed the traditions of a village frozen in time and to silence the brutal voice of Maria Theresa da Conceicao Rebelo, but embracing the promise of his adopted land is not as simple as he had hoped. 
Manuel’s son, Antonio, is born into Toronto’s little Portugal, a world of colourful houses and labyrinthine back alleys. In the Rebelo home the Church looms large, men and women inhabit sharply divided space, pigs are slaughtered in the garage, and a family lives in the shadow cast by a father’s failures. Most days Antonio and his friends take to their bikes, pushing the boundaries of their neighbourhood street by street, but when they finally break through to the city beyond they confront dangers of a new sort

I inhaled this book in one sitting!  Once I began reading it, I couldn't put it down.  I was swept into someplace very familiar to me.  As a Portuguese Canadian I can identify with so much that the author has written.

The book is divided into two parts.  The first half is narrated by Manuel. Manuel is the apple of his mother's eye, the one she hopes that will succeed in life, the one that will be important in their small village in Sao Miguel, Acores, Portugal.  But Manuel has his own dreams, he doesn't want what his mother so dearly wants for me.  He signs up to be a fisherman in a big ship, which brings him north, where in a freak accident he washes up on the coast of Newfoundland. A series of events leave him confused and angry, the hope that always had seems to be diminishing.  He soon feels like his dreams are all slipping through his fingers.

The second is narrated by Antonio, Manuel's son.  Like his mother before him, Manuel has high hopes and dreams for Antonio. For Antonio growing up in Little Portugal in Toronto is a confusing time.  It like being caught between the old ways of the old country with a new ways of the new country.  Which I completely understand, very well.  I know the feeling of going to school and kids asking me if I ate fish all the time, or being sent traditional Portuguese dish for lunch at but just wanting to fit by having a Wonder bread sandwich.  I understand the feeling of not quite living up to what the parent expects.

I read this book for a challenge, Portuguese Historical Fiction Challenge, hosted by Ana from Aneca's World.

Barnacle Love by Anthony de Da (4.5/5) Historical Fiction; Published: Doubleday Canada (2008); New Author; Portuguese Historical Fiction Challenge 2013 (1); Favorite Reads 2013; Library; Books 2013 (12);

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