The Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross

9780316476867_f37acOriginally published in Library Journal, October 15, 2018.

In her third novel, Ross (What Was MineMaking It) weaves a tale of the wealthy Hollingworth family and a secret that spans five generations. Rich historical details bring time periods to life from early 1900 wartime to the Great Depression and all the way up to September 11, 2001. Bridey, age 16, leaves Ireland with her sweetheart, Thom, hoping to marry in America. Thom perishes of ship fever, leaving her alone and pregnant. She gives the infant up for adoption, working in a factory until she meets Sarah Hollingworth and becomes a maid at the family’s lavish estate in Wellington, CT. Sarah, who lost her mother at age 12 and then took care of her siblings, marries Edmund, but is unable to have children of her own. Readers will come to know the infant as Vincent and follow him until his adult years. Vincent’s granddaughter, Emma, loses her own father when the twin towers collapse, a repeating pattern of tragedy for the Hollingworth family. Family drama unfolds in alternating viewpoints; the characters are linked across time periods, as they navigate poverty, loss, loneliness, and heartbreak. VERDICT: Fans of historical sagas will enjoy this dramatic tale.

Advertisements

The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris

I had never read anything by this author before, but I had read an early review about this book and was intrigued at the mention of  Alcatraz Island being the setting for a missing girl, in a situation w9780758281180_ad6c3here only one prisoner knew the truth of her whereabouts. It sounded like a great story line, and I enjoyed the book though it started out a bit slow. As it turned out, the story details the life of a young Irish boy named Shanley Keegan, with the missing girl portion of the plot only revealed at the very end of the book.

As a child of 12, Shan is living in Dublin under the care of his abusive Uncle Will, an alcoholic with not much parental guidance or care. Shan’s parents had both passed, and he only recently found a letter to his mother from an American musician, who it turns out is actually Shan’s real father. Shan decides to go to to New York to find his father and try to find a better life than that in Dublin, where he performs vaudevillian acts in nightclubs to scrounge up enough money for a square meal every now and then. Most of the money he earns is snatched up by Will and spent at the local pubs.

On the ship en route to America, Shan happens to be in the right place at the right time to help break up a fight between an Italian American named Nick Capello and some other young lads. Capello, who Shan will find out is quite the ladies’ man, was keeping company with the other young lads’ girls. To thank Shan for his help, Nick repays the favor, helping Shan through immigration in New York, allowing him to pretend to be Tommy Capello, Nick’s little brother. As it turns out, the real Tommy Capello was a sickly child and died at a young age. Nick’s family takes Shan in as part of their own. After many attempts and no success, Shan decides to give up the search for his real father, and assume the role of a Capello. The story progresses until we found adult Shan, now in the wrong place at the wrong time, but also while trying to help Nick. He ends up in Alcatraz, where good behavior earns him the role of gardener for the warden’s greenhouse. Here he meets a little girl who will forever change his life.

I won’t give away any more plot details, because there are some major events that occur which must be read to be fully enjoyed and understood. Readers can’t help but root for Shan, as hard times continue to befall him, and his attitude and outlook remain positive. Even as a prisoner in Alcatraz, he tries to find good in others, concentrating on serving the time without any trouble so he can go “home” to the Capellos. One of my favorite things about the story is the strong family bond between Shan and the Capello family, even though he wasn’t born a Capello, they took him in and he was loved as if he were. I think, perhaps, this is how Shan had the strength to make it through so many of the hardships in his adult life.

Fans of historical fiction would love this story. It reminded me some of The Green Mile, without the fantasy bit.

It Started with Paris by Cathy Kelly

Of course I had to read this book when I saw that one of my absolute favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand, enjoyed it so much. I have to agree with Elin, I too, “savored every page.” The book is highly character driven, which makes for a fast paced read. The only slight fault I would find with the book is that there are a ton of characters to try and keep straight. In the beginning, I got a bit confused as I was getting to know all of the characters, but the way the story was written worked very well. Readers are able to meet characters a little at a time throughout the story so they look forward to going back and forth between and finding out more details. The story takes place in Ireland, and it all begins when Kate and Michael become engaged in Paris. Soon, the reader meets both Kate’s and Michael’s parents and siblings, as well as some others connected to the young couple in some way or another. There is sweet, well-timed romance without any steamy scenes or rotten language. At times, I found myself laughing out loud about the predicaments the characters found themselves in. And in other moments, I had tears rolling down my face for the beautiful moments, especially during Michael’s wedding speech. Well done, Cathy Kelly! I hope you write many more novels for us to enjoy. This story will be published on August 4, 2015 by Grand Central Publishing.