In Kristina McMorris’ new book, “The Edge of Lost,” we start with Alcatraz, fog, a child missing and an inmate questioned.
And this is just the prologue.
McMorris then drops the reader into the life of one Shanley Keagan, a 12-year-old boy living in Dublin, Ireland, in 1919. We find him doing a stand-up comedy routine or at least attempting to, in a pub full of booze-filled men. His menacing guardian, Uncle Willy, is nearby at the bar.
I took an instant liking to Shan, a quick-witted, astute, and in my mind, a rather brave boy. The way he feels out the crowd, reads his audience; his young instincts honed through observation and experience, modifying his routine to try to capture this audience’s interest.
We learn soon enough that he is the bread winner in this Uncle and nephew combo. His success determines whether he goes to bed hungry or has something to eat.
And so begins our journey as we follow Shan thorough the twists and turns of his life.
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.”
This is a journey that catches you up in Shan’s fear and the sinuous strands of his mistrust. You can share in the surprise and uncertainty of the unexpected blessings of acceptance and unmerited kindness he receives. This is a journey tinged with guilt, buttressed by loyalty; a journey of nagging loss. This is a journey about choices and consequences foreseen and unforeseen; about humor as both salve and a lance.
Most importantly this is also a journey of Shan’s deep desire to make a place in the world, to be something more than desperate and impoverished, and to belong.
As the subtitle of the book states, “Every journey changes you.”
I heartily recommend embarking on this journey.
7 p.m. Dec. 3, Third Place Books
The Portland author will read from her new book “The Edge of Lost” at the book store, 17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park. McMorris moves her story from Ireland to New York to San Francisco and back again, offering insights in the immigrant experience in America during the era of prohibition, vaudeville and imprisonment on Alcatraz island. This is her fourth novel.