Thousands of miles and nearly two decades separate the lives of Tommy Capello, a convicted bank robber doing time in Alcatraz prison, and Shanley Keegan, an 11-year old orphan living in Dublin, Ireland. Tommy’s story launches readers into Alcatraz prison in 1937, where he watches and listens from inside the warden’s greenhouse as prison guards search for the missing daughter of a fellow guard. Acutely aware of what’s at stake, Tommy can only hope they don’t find the girl. In Dublin, Ireland in 1919, Shanley Keegan, aspires to be a vaudevillian. He performs in local pubs to often bellicose or indifferent customers and turns his earnings over to his abusive, alcoholic uncle. Shan wants more out of life than this and jumps at the opportunity to travel by ship to America with his uncle. Fate has other plans for Shan. Easily moving between time and characters, this intricately-plotted story of loyalty and sacrifice is captivating and satisfying.
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
Meet Britt-Marie, a Scandinavian housewife whose tolerance of her husband’s philandering has finally ended. In need of a job and a place to live, she badgers a bewildered employment office worker into finding her work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be-closed recreation center in tiny, economically depressed Borg. Her neighbors include an enterprising teen whose business ventures are never completely legal; a vision-impaired ex-soccer star who “accidentally” hits people she doesn’t like with her cane; a shy policeman with a crush; a rat that likes Snickers; and a youth soccer team in desperate need of a coach. As Britt-Marie is drawn into their passions, dreams, and schemes, she begins to consider what she wants out of her own life, and both she and the town of Borg find something they thought they’d lost forever: hope.
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer
In the sub-Saharan country of Mali, Abdel Kader Haidara was 17 years old when his father died and he became the custodian of the family’s library—a collection of five thousand manuscripts in Timbuktu and about eight times that many in their ancestral home in Bamba. Not long after, the director of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Timbuktu hired him to collect and preserve manuscripts.
Over the years, Haidara located thousands of manuscripts from as early as the 11th century on diverse topics including Islamic jurisprudence, Korans, theological treatises, conflict resolution, contemporary politics, geography, poetry, and astrology. He struggled to save these priceless manuscripts from the devastating effects of mold, termites, and dust because they had been hidden in holes in the ground, caves, secret closets, and storage rooms. Then Al Qaeda’s presence in the area changed everything. It became painfully clear they would need to save as many of the 377,000 manuscripts under his purview from Al Qaeda’s destruction of everything it considered to be sinful.
Readers will be swept into this gripping recounting of a frantic race by ordinary people against time and jihadists.