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The Sky Below Hardcover – January 9, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (January 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618439250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618439256
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,645,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A luminous novel crafted in meticulous detail with shimmering language, D'Erasmo's third book tells the story of Gabriel Callahan's life, beginning with his father's abandonment when Gabriel was a child and tracing his ambivalent search for wholeness through adolescence and into adulthood. An obituary writer for a half-assed tourist newspaper in post-9/11 Manhattan, Gabriel is also an artist, creating still lifes from found and stolen objects. Gabriel's lover, Janos, a wealthy financier, hopes that Gabriel will abandon his marginal life and move in with him, but Gabriel steadfastly refuses, even when a health crisis threatens to undo him. An impulsive trip to Mexico leads him to a hardscrabble commune where he finds a belated clarity. The descriptions of Gabriel's artwork and his daily struggles comprise a dizzying trip through metaphor and expression, the undisputed centerpiece of which is the dazzling, complicated narration in vivid prose. This is a demanding and immensely satisfying novel, and certainly one of the better New York artist novels in recent memory. (Jan.)
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From The New Yorker

D�Erasmo�s latest novel tells the story of a misanthropic obituary writer for a dying New York newspaper, who views his life through a series of memory boxes modelled on the assemblage art of Joseph Cornell. �I assiduously collected interesting junk, filling my pockets with pebbles and wire and old nails: the stuff of transformation,� he says. He narrates the drudgery of the daily grind and scrutinizes his dysfunctional, fatherless childhood, during which he rebelled against his mother by dealing drugs and engaging in sex with men for money. Now nearing forty and spiritually broken, he is given a diagnosis of cancer and travels to a commune in Mexico, where he reluctantly receives the help of a clairvoyant eight-year-old girl. Although the book strays into portentous magic realism, its lyrical prose and telling detail create a powerful atmosphere.
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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Sweet VINE VOICE on June 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book starts off promisingly; it focuses on the shattering of a sensitive child's world after his father abandons the family and they lose their (to the child's eyes) magical house in New England and are forced to live in a redneck Florida town where his mother manages a motel. The prose is quite wonderful, and we follow the protagonist as he becomes an artist and writer of obituaries in the bohemian world of New York City in the late '90s and early naughts. But the book degenerates into a symbol-laden mystical mumbo-jumbo that is just plain silly. Neither the protagonist nor the other characters ever emerge as fully-formed human beings...a disappointment.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kiwifunlad on July 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This novel received a lot of praise from the press but I found the novel frustratingly soulless. Gabriel the main protaganist lurches from one thing to the next in an incomprehensible manner. The novel charts his progress from an eight year old boy in Massachusetts, to Florida, Arizona, New York and Mexico. His character changes with each location. Obviously D'Erasmo's phantasmagoric style appeals to some but I found the novel cold and uninspiring and for a non American depressingly tedious reading about a country and people without soul or substance.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Selby on June 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Do not ignore the opening sentence: "When did I first stumble into the wrong grove?" Unlike the two-star reviewer's assessment of this novel, the opening chapter, "The House," sets the tone and provides the symbolism for the rest of this very unusual novel. It is what the reader needs for the rest of the novel which is, in my opinion, brilliant writing. This is essentially a story about a boy's and then the man's need to find his father, one of those universal themes in literature. So, reader, be very much aware of the ingredients you are provided in this opening chapter where young Gabe is living in Massachusetts with his mother and sister, where the three of them create a fantasy world and where the distant father decides to abandom them, leaving behind his collection of guitars and other items, not the least of which is his radio with its dial stuck in one place. Gabe carries that radio with him, first to Florida when his mother is forced to leave the house he adores.
This is a magical book. And I am not that fond of books that venture into the fantasy world. But this novel works so well that the reader just floats along, starting with the swamp in Florida and ending with a great adventure in Mexico.
Gabe is our narrator. And while living in Florida, he begins his life of what at first are small crimes. And then will come the bigger ones.
Then as an adult he becomes a journalist of sorts, writing obituaries for a truly awful New York City newspaper. And that is where he meets a wonderful character, the author of a series of trashy novels that have been so popular, consuming forests for the paper to print them, that she has been able to purchase many wonderful houses. And then something happens which requires the skills--if writing trashy novels necessitates skills--Gabe has.
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By Frank J on May 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Perhaps that was the author's intention. The main character seemed to have no purpose and no redemption, blaming it all on his absent father. This man was incapable of committing to anything or anyone, eventually becoming obsessed with finding his father without a clue as to whether or not he was still alive. What the hell was his purpose? And why out of the clear blue did he end up in Mexico in a cult with no purpose, becoming friends with an 8-year old girl whose dreams or visions (or what the hell ever they were) seemed to rule the adults?

The author writes very nice prose, but I simply could not relate to where she was going with this story, nor did I sympathize, relate to, or care for this character's journey.
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More About the Author

STACEY D'ERASMO is the author of the novels Tea, a New York Times Notable Book, and A Seahorse Year, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year and a Lambda Literary Award winner. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, and Ploughshares. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction, she is currently an assistant professor of writing at Columbia University. She lives in New York.

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