The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
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.
This book was not at all what I was expecting based on the description. I was so excited to learn about civilians living on Alcatraz. I didn’t even know that happened until reading about this book. Unfortunately, McMorris’ tale is really a slow narrative about Shan Keagan, an Irish boy who immigrates to the U.S. in 1919. His uncle dies on the boat over, so he’s taken in by an Italian family while he searches for his birth father.
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.
My Rating: 3 stars
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This book is a She Reads Book Club – Books of Winter selection. Read reviews from other members of their blogger network on their website.