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The Sky Below

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  213 ratings  ·  50 reviews
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, Gabrie
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 9th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Karen
I have to stop reading books based on blurbs on the dust jacket but Michael Cunningham described this book as "lyrical, haunting and vividly written" .

Not me-I found it to be disturbing, confusing and meandering.

Story kicks off in happyville, the idyllic magical childhood of a young boy in rural Massachusetts. I loved this first chapter and settled in with a satisfied smile for a captivating story. But I was sucked in too soon. By the second chapter the protagnonists family life dissolves and he
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Kate
[spoiler alert] In "The Sky Below," her third novel, Stacy D'Erasmo continues the trajectory into impressionism begun in her second novel, "A Seahorse Year." As she blurs the line between realism and impressionism, her vision becomes more intense and her language sharper. In "A Seahorse Year," madness is the specter that drives the narrative; in "The Sky Below," it's longing. Gabriel--abandoned by his father at an early impressionable age (all of his ages seem impressionable)--longs for a return ...more
Allyson
I was so disappointed with this book. Both Sigrid Nunez and Joan Silber wrote positive back cover blurbs, so I was very intrigued. I very much enjoyed reading Silber's The Size of the World and Ideas of Heaven as well as Nunez's The Last of Her Kind, but their experiences of this book were hugely opposite to mine.
While reading it, I acknowledged the curious styling, interesting ideas, unique thoughts, free flowing feel of it but it just escaped me. None of the characters moved me or captured me.
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Sarah
The writing in the book was exceptionally beautiful. I love books that have a strong sense of place and explore, even just in a secondary way, how being in a particular place shapes people. This book moves from New England to Florida to Arizona to New York City to Mexico very artfully and the author did a great job of bringing you to those places and using them to advance the plot and the main character in different ways. I struggled with this book a little because the plot felt muddled pretty f ...more
Beth
Not as strong as Seahorse Year, but still a good story. The main character is a little pathetic in his obsessions at times, and yet I still liked him and wanted him to get his life together. D'Erasmo leaves the reader hanging in the end, in a postmodern way, but it irritated me less than that kind of thing usually does.
Lisa
Good writing, sometimes beautiful writing. Got weirder as it went on, and I liked it less as it went on.
Larry Hoffer
I absolutely loved Stacey D'Erasmo's last book, A Seahorse Year, so I've been waiting for her to publish a follow-up novel for several years. I was really excited when I found this in the bookstore. And honestly, I wasn't disappointed at all. D'Erasmo is a terrific writer; she creates memorable characters you feel for and care about, and the language she uses is absolutely beautiful. This book is the story of Gabriel, who never quite got over his father abandoning his family when he was young. G ...more
christa
Sometimes you end up sitting next to a stranger, who has your undivided attention for a few hours. She starts telling you a story in a low storyteller voice, using pretty phraseology and vivid imagery, and just went you're kind of lulled into a word coma, she says something funny. You have to go back and rewind the line in your head, hear it again, laugh, and then continue listening.

Then all of a sudden, the storyteller goes a little loco. And you're like "I was with you up until the point wher
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Bryce
WTF.

The friend who recommended this book to me said that it would make a great indie movie. And since I've seen many many indie movies about whiny self-indulgent losers suffering from mid-life crises, I'd have to agree. But that doesn't make this book -- or those movies -- any more enjoyable.

Gabriel, the main character of the story, is miserable. And because he's also a despicable person, he uses his misery as an excuse to treat his family and loved ones like horse manure. He does this for 190
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Bookmarks Magazine

D'Erasmo walks a fine line in this unruly fairy tale of a novel: her characters, quirky to the point of becoming neurotic, inhabit a pseudo-enchanted world that hovers between fantasy and reality. Despite being "D'Erasmo's most complex and accomplished character to date" (New York Times Book Review), Gabriel isn't very likeable, but his self-absorption and amorality have their roots in a longing for meaning that resonated with critics, who described him as "unnervingly compelling" (Boston Globe)

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Julie
Gorgeous prose. Fantastic flights of imaginative fantasy and magical realism in this book. The first two thirds were beautiful and riveting, reminding me of Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World. The final two chapters did not work as well for me. I wanted more, but was pleased overall.
Jennifer

Spoiler alert:
When we follow him as a damaged, dangerous queer youth who gets involved in sex for money, selling petty drugs and theft is the best part. He is not your "typical" criminal and breaks into houses looking for things, often not expensive, to use to create memory boxes. Eventually, he uses found object, the detritus of the city to make art memory type boxes. The relationship he has with his best friend who happens to be female is also interesting to read and engaging, as is his obses
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Jen Knox
This book began beautifully, with strong prose and likable characters. I would like to rate it a bit more specifically, at a 3.75, because I am torn between "liking it" and "really liking it". It was one of those that seemed magical and lovely, but I found long stretches of prose that seemed to fall flat, as though D'Erasmo was over-editing herself, or being over-edited. The story itself is unique, but it became bogged down in places with over-wrought sentimentality and forced metaphors. Persona ...more
Holly
I am really torn about how to review this book. I really, really loved it, for 99% of the time. But in the end, I'm a little confused as to why it ended up where it did.

There is magical realism that runs throughout the entire book. And there is a chance for something really crazy and magical to happen, and then it just slowly dissipates. So I was sad about that.

But the majority of the book is entertaining, enlightening, inspiring, dynamic, and extremely interesting. The relationships are heartfe
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Alex Roberts
I was a bit underwhelmed by this title, but perhaps brought too high an expectation owing to reviews. The main character's supposed artistic bent- I was lured here by the intrigue of his Cornellian box constructions- is hardly emphasized nor consistently authentic feeling. Furthermore, his behavior throughout much of the central portion of the novel is ill-mannered and boorish; which, certainly, can be endured, if there is an adequate amount of flavorful activity otherwise (there isn't), or his ...more
Jason
This book is a pleasure to get into. D'Erasmo creates a lead character that is pathetic and familiar.
She has captured the plight of the Contemporary New York Gay Man Nearing Middle Age in a unique and pioneering way.

One thing I ask myself when I'm reading a good book is "Has anyone else written this novel?" I don't believe they have. Creating a character that hasn't been explored yet is essentially inventing our own lives.

This is stuff is Michael Cunningham caliber, and I don't think I've ever
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Shana
I heard Stacey D'Erasmo read from this novel late last year at the Happy Endings reading series, and I was hooked. I bought a copy as soon as it came out this January, and it didn't disappoint. The novel's main character is, in many ways, not a good guy, but there's still something incredibly attractive about him, and he makes quite a compelling narrator with quite a strange and interesting story to tell. Much as I enjoyed the story, though, the best thing about the novel is D'Erasmo's prose. Sh ...more
Joseph
This book started out really strong and ended with a total dud. From reality to fantasy. I can't recommend.
Charles Reimler
Truly Enjoyable Reads Like An Artful Craft Of Poetry Within A Short Story!
Oriana
Feb 11, 2009 Oriana marked it as to-read
From the Los Angeles Times via Powell's:

In her conceptually brilliant, imaginative, brimming and suspenseful novel, her evocations of place are ravishing; her characters are at once richly human and magical and their confounding predicaments are both commonplace and cosmic. Erotic and mystical, intricately made and deeply felt, The Sky Below is a vivid tale of profound dimension and resonance.

Hmmm, all by itself like this, that sounds kind of vacuous and over-dramatic, but the review as a whole
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Sebastian Hagedorn
I got this book as a birthday present, because I had put it on my wish list. When or why I don't recall, as sometimes happens. I enjoyed reading it, but it never completely grasped me and ultimately I'm at a loss what to make of it. I wasn't as perturbed by the magical elements as some other reviewers were, but I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending, either. If it's a slow burner that'll stay with me or if I may forget all about it, only time will tell.
Elizabeth
What a joy! A book I got for free (at a conference, on a table at the office--a bound galley) that is a surprising joy. I wasn't familiar with the author who has a wonderful writing style. She describes the life of Gabriel Callahan who lives in a world touched by magical realism. Of course he wants to become a bird--perhaps he will. He is a dreamer who sweeps us along in his dreams--along with his petty larceny and artistic creations.
Christopher Castellani
This is a book that resists categorization, which is only one of the many things that make it an amazing accomplishment. Allegorical, rooted in myth, surreal, and yet marked with a fully human longing that comes through on every page. D'Erasmo is working on a different, and higher, plane than most fiction writers out there today, and this novel, which haunted me long after I finished it, is a the perfect example of her great talent.
Diem Shepard
Still making up my mind. This one came with high praise from both Andrea Barrett and Michael Cunningham for the beauty of the language. I suppose that's accurate. I stopped caring about the first person narrator; no, that's not quite right. I became much too aware that he was a character, not a person. (Of course, one is always aware of that, but one should be able to keep that awareness somewhat at bay.)
Ellis
Nicely written. Disturbing and strange plot describing the life of a person from about age 8 into his forties. Sordid life from a troubled childhood. Hated the ending though. I mean really hated the ending! You grow to hate the main character, but I did enjoy reading the book because of how well it was written (aside from the end, in which it seems like the author sort of gave up).
Rz
how do you know you don't like a book? that contrary to whatever gushing nonsense is on its jacket, you still can't figure out what and where the hell the author is going with her writing, more than halfway thru. self-indulgent, plodding and whiny, chock full of two-dimensional side characters.

another reminder not to trust blurbs, nor the gently and lovingly rendered book cover art.
Wendy
I really like Stacey D'Erasmo, though my favorite novel of hers is A Seahorse Year. Sky Below does a wonderful job illuminating the inner creative life of a boy/man who is struggling to stay in this world and not just in his head. I can relate! It is beautifully written and as a reader, I felt like I had access to an incredibly believable rich inner world.
Donald
This was a sharply drawn picture of someone I did not expect to meet. The journey, with all of its side-tracks, was still captivating.

The overall sorrow that is presented makes one question if the author is expiating her own demons with her ink.

Good, but take the caution: this is not a happy book.
Mike
So much incredibly thoughtful anecdotal nostalgia packed into each paragraph. The narrative details are gripping, which is impressive. I think I'll have to reflect on it a lot longer to truly appreciate it, but still I think it carries a strong message about self-identity and the influence of one's past.
Kate
This is a slow moving, beautifully rendered book. Possibly one of the most interesting pieces of new fiction I have picked up this year. Her writing is vivid and there is a haunting quality to the story. Much recommended.
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Stacey D’Erasmo is the author of the novels Tea, (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year); 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. She is currently an assistant professor of writing at Columbia University.
More about Stacey D'Erasmo...
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