Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa
After reading all the entries on the Giller Prize shortlist for 2008, I agree with the judges on their pick of Through Black Spruce.
Which isn’t to say I didn’t like Barnacle Love. The Canadian immigrant experience seems to be captured so freshly within, preserving so much you can almost see it and smell it. My only dismay is that, as a collection of short stories, it is able to dance over gaps in the narrative in ways a novel couldn’t. The one big gap (why did Manuel falter in his dream when his immigrant relatives did not?) makes this book fall through the cracks for me.
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. 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.