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The Edge of Lost Paperback – November 24, 2015
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From Publishers Weekly
McMorris (The Pieces We Keep) subverts the rags-to-riches immigrant story in this breezy tale set between Ireland and Alcatraz. In the preface, we meet inmate 257 of Alcatraz before the story opens years earlier in Ireland when young Shanley Keagan, orphaned and scraping by with his drunken uncle, discovers he has an American father. They set off to find him, but Shan's uncle dies in transit, leaving Shan to fend for himself. Fortunately, the Capellos, an Italian family on the ship, take an interest, although the tradeoff is that Shan must give up his name and become a Capello. The story makes for compulsive reading as it jumps between Shan's youth and young adulthood, touching on such diverse underworlds as the Black Hand mafia, which Shan becomes entangled with when he joins the Capellos, and the Vaudeville life, which he aspires to join as a performer and comic. There is a lot to cover however, and at times Shan's character as presented to the reader â sensitive, loyal, and passiveâ contrasts rather unconvincingly with how others characters perceive him â tough and ruthless, but this is still an intricate and intriguing entry into the American immigrant canon. (Dec.)\n
“Kristina McMorris evokes such a strong sense of place that to open her books feels less like reading and more like traveling. Her absorbing new novel..[is an] epic, deeply felt tale of struggle and sec-ond chances… a trans¬porting piece of historical fiction.” —BookPage
“A gripping immigrant saga…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
“Beautifully written with mesmerizing details, this is one of those books that sticks with a reader… extensively researched and the historical images are incredibly accurate… an absolute must-have.” —VOYA Magazine
“In terms of both the character and the era, McMorris took a chance, and she succeeded. And the careful plotting—another McMorris hallmark—pays off in an absorbing story. The Edge of Lost is about taking—and making—chances. A satisfying read.” —Kitsap Sun
"McMorris manages to pack this book with all the messiness and nuances of a life. Her vivid descriptions and use of language make you feel like the fly on the wall...I heartily recommend embarking on this journey." —The Daily Herald
“Grabs readers from the very start and doesn't let up until the dynamic conclusion. The Edge of Lost is another work of genius by the talented Kristina McMorris.” —Fresh Fiction
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF KRISTINA McMORRIS
The Pieces We Keep
“The past collides with the present in this sensitive and multilayered story where the discovery of long-held family secrets leads to healing. The contemporary twist will be a treat for fans of World War II historical fiction.” --Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Me and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
“McMorris’ strong pacing keeps the two stories zipping along and all its many strings connected for a gratifying conclusion.”--Kirkus Reviews
Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves
“Impeccably researched and beautifully written.” --Karen White
“Readers of World War II fiction will devour Kristina McMorris's Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, a poignant, authentic story of Japanese and American lovers crossed not only by the stars but by the vagaries of war and their own country's prejudices.” —Jenna Blum
Letters From Home
“An absolutely lovely debut novel filled with endearing characters and lively descriptions. Fans of World War II romantic fiction will definitely enjoy this fast-paced story.” —Kristin Hannah
“A tender and heartfelt glimpse of a time long past. While wholly original, it's filled with characters as beloved as your own grandparents. Propelled by the epic sweep of world war, yet warmed by intimate human moments, this story will linger in the reader's memory long after the last page is turned.” —Susan Wiggs
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The story follows Shan over the next 20 years, but he doesn't end up in prison on Alcatraz until the last quarter of the book. And the portion of the plot involving the young girl is very brief. I was disappointed. This isn't a bad book. It's just not at all what I was hoping to read.
Based on the description I also thought the story might be told in alternating time periods or by using flashbacks, but other than a short prologue, the story is laid out linearly. Based on the author's note, she seems to have set out to tell a story about Alcatraz, so a different approach may have better suited that goal.
I enjoyed some elements of the story, but overall I found it to be too slow and too descriptive. I would classify this book as literary fiction, as well as historical fiction, and I don't particularly care for overly detailed prose.
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, love, forgiveness and sacrifice.
As the book opens on Alcatraz Island, Oct 1937, an inmate (Capello) 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 a decade, 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.