Leaving Pico: A Novel

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A Barnes and Noble Discover Award Winner; a Borders Book of Distinction; Winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction; and a New York Times Notable Paperback (paperback edition)

Set in the vibrant Portuguese community of Cape Cod, a compelling story of a young man's coming-of-age. In the tradition of Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima or Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, poet Frank X. Gaspar has crafted a beautifully written coming-of-age-in-ethnic-America novel set in the Portuguese community of Provincetown, Massachusetts. For narrator Josie Carvalho, a single summer brings great loss and abrupt change, but also a new understanding of his place in the world.

New York Times Book Review "[A] simple and satisfying first novel . . Gaspar's novel is an expert portrait of the Portuguese immigrant experience, from its resistance to full integration."

Boston Herald — "[A] beguiling first novel...Gaspar does a fine job recapturing the nuance and ambience of his long-lost corner of working-class Provincetown."

Kirkus Reviews A boy grows up fast one summer in the Portuguese part of Provincetown when the world he's known all his life suddenly turns upside down: a sensitive, partly autobiographical first novel from poet Gaspar. Life is bound to be a bit unusual for a boy without a father, but for Josie Carvalho, living in his fanatically religious great-aunt's house along with his willful mother and hard-drinking grandfather John Joseph, it's more complex than that. Sober or not, John Joseph fills Josie's head with an unending tale of an ancestor from Pico in the Azores, a contemporary of Columbus who supposedly found his way to America a few years before his rival only to have news of his discovery squelched through papal intrigue. In between installments of ancestral lore, John Joseph takes Josie fishing in his salvaged wreck of a boat and runs off to cavort with a pair of free-spirited women up from the city for the summer. Josie wishes fervently for something more normal, and, much to his amazement, seems to conjure up a father figure when Carmine, newly arrived in Provincetown, begins to court his mother. Carmine has the deck stacked against him from the start, however, no matter how attentive and helpful he is to the entire family, because he's the wrong kind of Portuguese: from the mainland, instead of the Azores. When tensions boil over, Carmine and Josie's mother depart, leaving the boy with only John Joseph to lean on. . . [until] his grandfather goes fishing without him and never returns. A quiet, dignified, colorful, ethnically rich coming-of-age saga.

Library Journal This debut novel by an award-winning poet is a family memoir of a fatherless boy growing up inside the Portuguese fishing community of Provincetown, MA. Josie Carvalho's life is shaped by his grandfather John Joseph, who believes his ancestor, the Portuguese explorer Francisco Carvalho, discovered America before Columbus. Josie's mother runs off to Florida with her fiancé, and John Joseph offers Josie an escape from his feelings of abandonment by telling a finely constructed tale about Francisco Carvalho. In this dramatic story-within-a-story, John Joseph—fueled by plenty of alcohol—relates Francisco's fight against "secrecy and stupidity and treachery" following his discovery of America. His narrative, which ignites Josie's imagination, is a finely woven combination of the intrigue of Treasure Island and the melodrama of a soap opera. Recommended for most collections. — David A. Beron, Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Additional Reviews
— Pat Holt, Leaving Pico, Book of the Day in Holt Uncensored (#85) August 17, 1999.


Leaving Pico,  Frank X. Gaspar  (Hardscrabble Books, University Press of New England) 2001, (paperback edition, 224pp.) ISBN-13: 978-1584651352

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Other Editions:
    Hardcover (1999)        Portuguese Translation (2002)
Leaving Pico, hardcover Leaving Pico, Portuguese Translation