This captivating book begins in October 1937 on the Island of Alcatraz, home to a prison for the most deadly criminals. A civilian child is missing, and only convicted bank robber Tommy Capello knows where she can be found.
We are then taken back to 1919 Ireland where we meet Shanley Keagan, an orphan with a gift for performing that will eventually become a means of survival in a dangerous world. Raised by his violent and alcoholic uncle, Shan is secretly desperate to find his long lost American father, and succeeds in convincing his uncle to move them to America in search of a better life. However, America is not the place of gold paved streets that Shan had heard about and after an unexpected turn of events, he finds himself indebted to a kind immigrant Italian family.
We follow Shan throughout his life as he becomes the third son of the Capello family, brother to Nick and Lina. His dream becomes a reality when he begins performing on stage with the actors he admires most, but Shan finds himself in trouble when he makes the choice to rescue his brother from a nasty situation.
The plot twists keep coming, and Shan must rely on his wit and courage to survive what comes next. I was hooked on the plot of this novel as it moved faster towards solving a mystery. The ending was so unexpected but so satisfying. This book is a journey, a story of friendship, secrets, duty and sorrow. I loved additional touches that made it all the more authentic, like the mix of Italian and American culture, Shan’s love for literature inherited from his mother and the scandalous aspects of a life on stage in the 20’s.
The humanity of McMorris’ characters is so real and raw, and their development through the story very clever. I loved her beautifully descriptive questioning of what it means to be human: “It’s fascinating, really, when you think about it. How a person can slip into a new life as one would a new pair of shoes. At first there’s a keen awareness of the fit: a stiffness at the heel, the binding of the width, the curve pressed to the arch. But with time and enough steps, the feel becomes so natural you almost forget you’re wearing them at all.”
This novel shows us the possibility of forming unbreakable bonds with strangers and that it’s never too late to change who you are.