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Kiss the Sky: A Novel Hardcover – May 12, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Washed-up rock star Sophie Lee has coasted along as a B-level TV celebrity since the breakup of her indie rock band, Sky, and her divorce from Ari Klein, the alluring but drug-abusing lead guitarist and fellow Harvard classmate. But when the band reunites for a one-night charity event, she realizes her dreams of stardom might not be over. Her new producer and lover, Leo Masters, pushes her into recording and touring again, throwing Sophie in over her head, as she is torn between her old love and her new one in the pressure cooker of fame. NPR radio host Chideya captures the New York music scene at the turn of the millennium in her debut novel, but fails to generate much sympathy for Sophie as she struggles through a quagmire of problems, mostly resulting from her own inability to take control of her life. Sophie's many neuroses aren't organic, a new one seeming to appear any time the reader's interest may be waning. Despite a memorable cast of side characters, the plot flounders along as ineffectually as the heroine. (May)
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From Booklist

In this uninhibited rock-and-roll soap opera of a novel, Chideya presents a portrait of a suffering artist who sports a résumé similar to her own. Black Harvard graduate Sophie “Sky” Lee makes her living as a music television host in Manhattan, but her first love is making music with her band. Its initial incarnation turned into a disaster when her husband, Ari (now her ex), became a heroin addict, but a reunion concert convinces the band members that it’s worth another try. With the help of a slick new manager who is also her latest love interest, Sky decides it’s time to give herself over to her music. But the same demons that feed her creativity work to undermine her stability as she battles addictions to food and alcohol. The band sets out on tour, with stops along the way in the South, home to her large and loving family, while Sky vents about her weight and her lover. Full of passionate descriptions of performing, drinking, and sexual encounters, this debut is a messy but engaging shout-out to the rock-and-roll life. --Joanne Wilkinson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141658594X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416585947
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,563,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Farai Chideya's first foray into fiction has proven to be a success. The novel follows a 30ish African-American punk/rock singer, Sophie Washington, trying to make a "comeback" with her band Sky (also her nickname). Sophie is wrestling with the old demons of Ari her ex-husband/love-of-her-life/creative collaborator/guitarist, the need to be a rock star, self-worth, weight, and the trappings of life and those that exist around us. If you want a better summary of the book read, the "Editorial Review" above.

Let's get any negativity out of the way, and nibble on the good morsels of this novel. Her "voice" has some growth in it as a storyteller, but it does a warmth to it that allows the words to be easily read. There are some jumps in action that feel slightly clunky- they lacked strong transitions from point to point. This is so minor that it does not detract completely from the over arching story. There were some story lines that I felt where whittled down for length and pacing sake, and maybe in earlier drafts had more flesh to them (this is pure speculation). Also, this is not an all-ages book. This is for more mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.

To start, each chapter is entitled after a particular song and band. The range of Artist goes from The Smiths to N.E.R.D. to Frank Sinatra to Musafir to Jill Scott and everything in between. Knowing the songs gave some insight into the chapter, which I found to be an interesting motif. Granted, I wasn't familiar with every song, but it did not detract from the storytelling. Also, meticulously intertwined in the prose, where clips from song lyrics. The lyrics did not always hail from the song that the chapter was named for, but provide a fun find when I would recognize a lyric.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nadine B. Hack on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As I read the multi-talented Farai Chideya's first novel, Kiss the Sky, I found myself smiling each time she unearthed the perfect turn of phrase to reveal the exact texture of a moment in its just-there-it-is reality. For example: "The crowd was London über-multiculti, where everyone was a quarter Jamaican and a quarter Pakistani and a quarter Scottish and a quarter plain Dickensian white." Spot-on: I've been in that club! And, I've been in many of the darker emotional places Chideya so bravely exposes. She has her finger on the pulse beat of the cultural touchstones that surround our lives. As I'm about two decades older than her, my "sound-track" is generally from an earlier vintage. Yet, her writing is so evocative that even when I wasn't familiar with the particular song or performer she was referencing, I still got the full flavor bringing me into that moment. And, because her wide-ranging familiarity with culture is so deep and broad, she even referenced jazz classics that pre-date my youth. Like those songs do for her, they fill me with an immediate understanding about the emotional context of their moment in history. Even for those who may be musically illiterate, her writing might do the same. Just as when I read A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley - I'd never been on a farm in Iowa but I actually could taste and smell the earth - some writers can just bring you to a place you've never been. Let Chideya bring you on a journey whether it's one you're familiar with or not!
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Format: Hardcover
I don't remember where I first heard of Farai Chideya's Kiss the Sky. I do know I had really high hopes for this story, of a woman struggling with herself and her music career. Sophie is the sort of character you initially want to root for: she's divorced from her music partner, but they've found a way to co-exist -- maybe they are even comfortable with their status. She's got a cool job, at least when the book opens, and she's willing to work to regain what she had, musically.

It should have worked. Even the fact that Ms. Chideya is a Harvard grad who has a published a number of non-fiction books should have been enough to save this one.

I was shocked to see how many sentences started with a verb. Went to the club. Stepped outside for a smoke. (Now, I'm making these sentences up, so don't go looking through the book for them) Yes, okay, maybe some of this is establishing Sophie's voice, but frankly, it was too much. It became annoyingly repetitive, and it got in the way of the story.

This wasn't as horrible a thing as I had first feared. Sophie is a mess: she's bulimic, broke, and bull-headed. She's so far in denial about her life that I couldn't spend time with her. I had to put the book down.

It's one thing to want to read an autobiography about someone who's a bigger train wreck. We have a reason to want to like them -- we have heard the music they make. There's a connection there.

Thus, in fiction, it's imperative for the reader to be able to relate to a character who has large amounts of baggage. We need to like them, care about them, root for them. They need to have some sort of drive, some sort of forward motion -- either about them or their plot. If it's going to be a plot-driven book, the character shouldn't get in the way of that.
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