A boy’s life from Ireland to Alcatraz “makes for compulsive reading” in this New York Times bestselling historical novel by the author of Sold on a Monday (Publishers Weekly).
Alcatraz, 1937. 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 what happens next.
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 finding his real father in America. But when he finally crosses the Atlantic, tragedy strikes, and Shan must forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.
Skillfully weaving these two stories, acclaimed author 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.
"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
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 sensitive, loyal, and passive contrasts rather unconvincingly with how others characters perceive him tough and ruthless, but this is still an intricate and intriguing entry into the American immigrant canon.