Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: 11/24/2015
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
From bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes an ambitious and heartrending story of immigrants, deception, and second chances. On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard's only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden's greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl's whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search's outcome. Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world. Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.
A special thank you to Kensington Books 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, 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--of hope and identity. 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.
“Compelling, resonant and deeply moving, The Edge of Lost is an absorbing tale of deceit and self-deception, survival and second chances, the ties that bind and the lure of the unknown.”
– Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
“Will grab your heart on page one and won't let go until the end. I absolutely love this book, and so will you.”
--Sara Gruen, #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Water for Elephants
“McMorris’ gripping immigrant saga sweeps from Dublin to New York, through Prohibition and vaudeville, from New York to San Francisco and Alcatraz. It is a young man’s battle with hardship and tragedy, but it is also a portrait of America during a turbulent time and a quest that ends in triumph. Readers will be caught up in this well-told story.”
- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
About the Author
At age nine, Kristina McMorris began creatively expressing herself when she embarked on a five-year stint as the host of an Emmy® and Ollie award-winning kids' television program. Being half Japanese, Kristina jokes that she discovered a genetic kinship with the camera early in life and continued to nurture that relationship by acting in many independent and major films while living in Los Angeles. Later, as the owner of a wedding/event planning company, she served as the six-year host of the WB's weekly program Weddings Portland Style. Kristina's extensive experience in media and events led her to becoming a professional emcee and contributing writer for Portland Bride & Groom magazine. Her previous writing background also includes ten years of directing public relations for an international conglomerate. Just a handful of years ago, deciding sleep was highly overrated, she compiled hundreds of her grandmother's favorite recipes for a holiday gift that quickly evolved into a self-published cookbook. With proceeds benefiting the Food Bank, Grandma Jean's Rainy Day Recipes sold at such stores as Borders and was featured in a variety of regional media. It was while gathering information for the book's biographical section when Kristina happened across the letters her grandfather mailed to his "sweetheart" during his wartime naval service -- a collection that later inspired McMorris to pen her first novel, a WWII love story titled Letters from Home. Praised by Woman's Day and hailed by Publishers Weekly as "a sweeping debut," Letters from Home was published in 2011 by Kensington Books and Avon/HarperCollins UK, followed in 2012 by her novel Bridge of Scarlet Leaves and novella "The Christmas Collector, which appeared in the anthology A Winter Wonderland. Kristina's latest novel,The Pieces We Keep, was released December 2013 to wide acclaim, and her novella "The Reunion" was featured in the anthology Grand Central in July 2014 (Berkley/Penguin Random House). Her work has appeared on the USA Today and New York Timesbestsellers lists, and rights have been sold to numerous foreign publishers, Readers Digest, Doubleday, the Literary Guild, and more. Her forthcoming novel, The Edge of Lost, will be released December 2015. A frequent guest speaker and workshop presenter, McMorris holds a B.S. in International Marketing from Pepperdine University. For her diverse achievements, she has been named one of Portland's "Forty Under 40" by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently working on her next novel. Website Twitter