Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: 11/24/2015
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
A special thank you to Kensington and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Kristina McMorris skillfully delivers an impeccably researched and compelling novel, AT THE EDGE OF LOST, a blending of historical fact and fiction---ultimately, a story of second chances, hope, identity, love, forgiveness and sacrifice.
As the book opens on Alcatraz Island, Oct 1937, an inmate inside the warden’s greenhouse strains to listen. A little girl ten years old has gone missing. A prison guard's only daughter has gone missing as we venture back to learn the history of a man, prior to becoming a convicted bank robber, and coming to America.
In Dublin, Ireland in 1919, we meet (Shan) Shanley Keagan. Orphaned at twelve, he goes to live with his abusive uncle Will, and works at the pub, as a gifted performer. However, his life takes a different turn, when he discovers a letter of his mom’s from an American father, he never knew. You feel for the boy, handing the money to his cruel uncle who spends it at the local pub.
At a young age Shan quickly learns to adapt to his surroundings, depending on humor and making people laugh. The dreams and hopes of a small boy to come to America. Some of these elements served him well, later on in life, a protective shield when subjected to a cold crowd.
As he travels to America he meets an Italian-American family, the Capellos, who take him in. He is loyal and grateful to this warm family for giving him a start. Later he becomes involved in a crime while trying to save Nick and winds up in Alcatraz prison in San Francisco. (you will root for Shan, and fall in love with his character).
The past and present collide, engaging you with a wide variety of emotions from life experiences of sorrow, adversity, secrets, loyalty, love, and redemption. Deeply held secrets and deception, and debts to pay---surround the characters, each with a purpose for withholding the truth, some in order to survive. What a journey—hard to put this one down!
McMorris does an outstanding job with the research of Alcatraz, Al Capone, the Capellos, and the Italian immigrant families, as well as her own experiences, and hands on research with her night tours, she mentions in her author’s notes - enhancing the overall experience.
There has always been much mystery and intrigue over the years, behind he Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary (Alcatraz) –the maximum high-security Federal prison, operating from 1934 to 1963. The author writes a beautiful story balancing the good and the bad, weaving the connecting stories. After reading had to research more, which I found fascinating.
As the author mentions, she typically sets her books in the 40s, and this time she is tackling the 20s and 30s, which she transitions with ease; from superior character development, and vivid settings, drawing you into the place, time, and emotions.
A powerful story, and deeply moving, infused with elements from the Roaring Twenties, gangsters, the Irish pubs in Dublin, Ireland, rich with whiskey and smoky cigarettes, to Bronx supper clubs, and burlesque shows, to prisons-- two stories of diversity from, Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay.
An idea choice for book clubs and discussions (a nice reading group guide included). Historical fiction fans will love the satisfying ending. A very fitting title and cover!
I enjoyed the book so much, I also pre-ordered the audio, as well. Looking forward to listening.