5 reviews

The Edge of Lost
by Kristina Mcmorris

Published: 2015-11-24
Paperback : 352 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 5 members
***NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER*** "Will grab your heart on page one and won't let go until the end."    --Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants  On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A ...
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"Will grab your heart on page one and won't let go until the end."
    --Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



Alcatraz Island

October 1937

Fog encircled the island, a strangling grip, as search efforts mounted. In the moonless sky, dark clouds forged a dome over the icy currents of San Francisco Bay.

“You two check the docks,” shouted Warden Johnston, his voice muffled by rain and howling wind. “We’ll take the lighthouse. The rest of you spread out.”

More people traded directives, divvying up territory. They were off-duty guards and teenage sons who called Alcatraz their home, an odd place where a maze of fencing and concrete kept families of the prison staff safe from the country’s most notorious criminals.

At least in theory.

From inside the warden’s greenhouse, inmate 257 strained to listen—that was his number. Even his coveralls bore a stamp of his designation, branded like cattle. The beam of a searchlight brushed past the glass-lined walls.

Over and over in the dankness of his cell he had envisioned this very scene. Had seen it as clear as the picture shows he grew up watching in Brooklyn. The Mark of Zorro, he recalled. It was the first swashbuckler he’d ever viewed on the silver screen. The film was silent, long before talkies became all the rage, but the action and suspense had quickened his pulse, gripped his lungs. Same as now.

He drew a breath, let it out. Raindrops grew insistent. They tapped the ceiling like fifty anxious fingers. Seventy. A hundred.

“Eh! Capello!”

His heart jolted. Normally he stayed keenly aware of sounds behind him, a survival tool in the pen, but somehow he’d missed the creak of the door.

He tightened his hold on the garden trowel before turning around. It was Finley, a guard with the look and nose twitch of an oversize ferret.

“Yeah, boss?”

“You seen a little girl pass by? Ten years old, light brown hair. About so high?”

The answer needed to sound natural, eased out like fishing line. “No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.”

Atop the single entry step, Finley surveyed the room with an air of discomfort. He wasn’t a proponent of the rare freedoms afforded to passmen, the few trusted inmates assigned to work at the warden’s house.

“Aren’t you about done here?” Finley asked.

“Sure am. Then I’ll be heading to the lower greenhouse to finish up.”

Finley hesitated, an endless moment—of gauging? Of suspicion? At last he gave a partial nod and turned to exit.

The door swung closed.

Adrenaline rushed with the force of the pounding rain. The risks and consequences gained new clarity. Doubt invaded his thoughts.

It wasn’t too late to turn back. He could serve out his time by sticking to the grind, sleeping and eating and pissing when told, and one day walk out a free man . . .

But, no. No, it wasn’t that simple. Not anymore. He recalled just how much lay at stake, and any chance of reneging crumbled.

Through the fog, lightning cracked the sky. The air brightened with an eerie blue glow, and from it came a boost of certainty.

He could do this.

The plan could work.

So long as they didn’t find the girl. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. From Irish pubs to Bronx supper clubs, and burlesque shows to prison cells, The Edge of Lost features several diverse parts of history. Did you learn something new from the story? What was the most interesting?

2. At a young age, Shan learned to quickly adapt to his surroundings, much like a chameleon. How did this ability both help and hinder his personal growth?

3. In hindsight, much of life could be viewed as ripples set into motion by a handful of pivotal events. How different would Shan’s life have been if he had never left Ireland? How would this have affected the lives of the other major characters?

4. The deeply held secrets of many characters were revealed throughout the story. Do you agree with their reasons for keeping those secrets? Is withholding the truth the same as lying? Is it always best to be forthcoming?

5. Early on, Shan became dependent on humor to survive and later recognized how trust and likability are often cultivated through making people laugh. Discuss how different each segment of his life would have been without this skill.

6. From Uncle Will’s exchanges with Doc O’Halloran, Shan observed, “When a person had something you needed, it was best to show you were worthy.” How did this belief translate into Shan’s relationships with each member of the Capello family?

7. In recalling his late parents, “Shan felt the weight of their absence, as heavy as stone on his chest.” How did this traumatic childhood loss influence his future choices?

8. Not only Shan, but Mr. Capello, Nick, and Josie all sought a form of redemption. Do you think each one fully achieved that? Is it possible to right a wrong with an unrelated act?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

“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

“The Edge of Lost is an epic tale of struggle, loss, ingenuity, and—most importantly—the tenacity of one man’s innate decency in the face of crippling obstacles. The story will grab your heart on page one and won’t let go until the end—and if you’re like me, not even then.”—Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants

“This book has it all, well developed characters, vivid descriptions of Dublin and New York during that time period, love, forgiveness, fortitude, humility…There is a wonderful interview with the author at the end of the book, and questions and answers that would be very useful for book clubs.”—Dorie Schultz (reader’s review on Goodreads)

“Shan's tale grabs readers from the very start and doesn't let up until the dynamic conclusion. Historical details give The Edge of Lost even more dimension and a vivid imagery of the time and locales…Another work of genius by the talented Kristina McMorris.”—Fresh Fiction

“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

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Jill K. (see profile) 01/21/21

  "Just Okay"by Donna B. (see profile) 03/02/18

Our book club met and of 8 people one did not like it at all, and the other 7 thought it was just okay. The consensus was that the ending was unnecessarily contrived and unbelievable, Also, there were... (read more)

  "The Edge of Lost"by Donna C. (see profile) 05/08/17

I really enjoyed the book

  "TItle and Summary are somewhat misleading"by Vivian T. (see profile) 08/16/16

The vast majority of the members in my book group felt that the title and summary set them up for a story about Alcatraz and they were disappointed. If you skip the prologue and head straight into the... (read more)

by Carol R. (see profile) 06/17/16

  "Get Lost in the words of the Edge of Lost"by Nancy B. (see profile) 04/28/16

What a beautifully written story about one boy's journey from childhood to manhood. A young boy, Shan, finds himself in Ireland, orphaned and taken in by an ill-tempered, miserly uncle. The ... (read more)

by Christie L. (see profile) 02/09/16

  "The Edge of Lost"by Carolyn R. (see profile) 01/05/16

The author does a great job of interweaving the stories of two seemingly different characters. Easy read, good book

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