The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris, starts with such a big tease! The book opens in 1937, on Alcatraz island. A little girl has gone missing. And........then the book flashes back 1919!!
Again, what a tease! No big hint of how this will relate to the rest of the story. But because I've heard nothing but good things about Kristina McMorris' writing, I trusted that I was in for a great read. And...I was!
In 1919 Ireland, we meet a young boy named Shan. His mother has died. He doesn't know much about his father, leaving Shan to be "raised" by the unscrupulous Uncle Will. I say "raised" because Uncle Will makes Shan earn his keep by performing in seedy pubs. It's not that Shan doesn't like singing/performing, he dreams of making a career out of it. He also dreams of meeting his father. After learning that his father is a soldier in America, leaving Ireland is all Shan can think about. Uncle Will actually gets on board with making the trip. I don't think I'm spoiling much by saying that Uncle Will dies on the ship as they head to New York. It happens very early in the book, forcing Shan to think quickly. How will he get off the ship without Uncle Will? How can he get through customs without Uncle Will? More importantly, how will he ever find his father?
Lucky for Shan he made friends on the boat with Nick Capello. Nick's parents pretend that Shan is their son Tommy, the only hitch is that the real Tommy is dead. While they get through customs, what will happen after? Is it fair to the Capellos for Shan to continue pretending to be a member of the family, especially a dead one. That question gets answered quickly. Mr. and Mrs. Capello, their daughter, Lina, and Nick grow to love Shan. The search for Shan's biological father fades away. The Capello family is at the heart of this story. They are a family that anyone can relate to. Nick fights his father's authority, choosing instead to embrace the lifestyle of a small-time gangster during the height of Prohibition. Shan and Lina choose not to fight their father's authority. They choose to follow the rules, they choose to go to school, they choose to work hard and in the right way. Rather than disappoint his father, it's easier for Nick to be away from the family. A family blowup, leads to long-buried feelings. Shan chooses to do exactly what Nick did, separating himself from the family. But he's pulled back, an action that has a devastating impact on the rest of his life.
Shan is the character I connected to the most. Despite the Capellos welcoming him to the family, deep down Shan always wonders if he's a true member of the family. He believes he has to work extra hard to remain a part of the family. He really doesn't but Shan doesn't realize that. Overall, I love, love, loved this book. I'm a big lover of historical fiction. Now, I have to read the rest of Kristina McMorris' backlist.
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Kensington). The Edge of Lost is one of the winter selections for She Reads.