Graff has written a novel that is so vivid you will smell the trees, feel the rocks and hear the turbulent falls. Two desperate ten-year-old boys flee into the forest after one of them shot the other’s abusive father. Enter a caring grandfather and a young sheriff - one knows the woods; one knows how to conduct a search. Can they reach the boys before they are confronted by a relentless storm and a dangerous section of gorge? A determined mother and a young gas station attendant become part of the waiting game. . . or not. Raft of Stars is riveting and fast-paced, with twists and turns like the raging river that becomes a character itself.
-MINDY— From Mindy's Recs
“A rousing adventure yarn full of danger and heart and humor.” —Richard Russo
An instant classic for fans of Jane Smiley and Kitchens of the Great Midwest: when two hardscrabble young boys think they’ve committed a crime, they flee into the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Will the adults trying to find and protect them reach them before it’s too late?
It’s the summer of 1994 in Claypot, Wisconsin, and the lives of ten-year-old Fischer “Fish” Branson and Dale “Bread” Breadwin are shaped by the two fathers they don’t talk about.
One night, tired of seeing his best friend bruised and terrorized by his no-good dad, Fish takes action. A gunshot rings out and the two boys flee the scene, believing themselves murderers. They head for the woods, where they find their way onto a raft, but the natural terrors of Ironsforge gorge threaten to overwhelm them.
Four adults track them into the forest, each one on a journey of his or her own. Fish’s mother Miranda, a wise woman full of fierce faith; his granddad, Teddy, who knows the woods like the back of his hand; Tiffany, a purple-haired gas station attendant and poet looking for connection; and Sheriff Cal, who’s having doubts about a life in law enforcement.
The adults track the boys toward the novel’s heart-pounding climax on the edge of the gorge and a conclusion that beautifully makes manifest the grace these characters find in the wilderness and one another. This timeless story of loss, hope, and adventure runs like the river itself amid the vividly rendered landscape of the Upper Midwest.
About the Author
Andrew J. Graff is the author of novel Raft of Stars. His fiction and essays have appeared in Image and Dappled Things. Andrew grew up fishing, hiking, and hunting in Wisconsin's Northwoods. After a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Graff earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He lives in Ohio and teaches at Wittenberg University.
“An adventurous tale of misfit characters and a humble riverboat.”
— Parade (“A Must-Read Book of Spring”)
“The characters are expertly drawn in their shifting relationships . . . Both an engaging adventure and a profound reflection on human bonding, what it means to be a man (and a good one), and the importance of persevering. . . . Highly recommended, whether you want literate thrills or thoughtful, affirming meditation.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“The wilderness odyssey that shapes Graff’s rewarding coming-of-age debut has a timeless, archetypal resonance. . . . Graff depicts the harsh Northwoods setting and his misfit characters’ inner lives with equal skill. The dynamic quest narrative offers plenty of rich moments.”
— Publishers Weekly
"Rural Wisconsin in the mid-1990s is the setting for Graff’s memorable story of loss, violence, adventure, and redemption. . . . Graff’s characters have heart to spare, and his affection for this rugged part of the country is infectious. His coming-of-age story offers us nostalgia and escape, and he reminds us that while freedom can be elusive, the people who love you always make your life worth living.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Reminiscent of stories like Stand By Me and Have You Seen Luis Velez?, Graff's debut novel will enchant fans of Chris Cleave and Melissa Bank. Graff's narrative voice is lyrical, with a Southern Gothic edge that fits surprisingly well with the Wisconsin Northwoods setting. Exploring the necessity of the stories we tell ourselves to survive, Raft of Stars is a clever, compelling coming-of-age tale.”
“I had no idea people wrote books like Andrew J. Graff’s Raft of Stars anymore—a rousing adventure yarn full of danger and heart and humor and characters worth worrying about. It’s as if, after observing the deplorable state we’re all in right now, the author took it upon himself to raise our collective spirits. Bravo!”
— Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Chances Are...
"Graff has crafted not only an adventure story with a warm heart at its center, but a whole town of characters for readers to fall in love with."
— J. Ryan Stradal, author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota
“In ruggedly beautiful prose, and with a deep affection for his damaged, but always loveable characters, Graff delivers a novel with real heart and soul. An authentic look into the heartland of America, into one-parent households, where mothers and grandparents are supporting the next generation while fathers are either absentee, or should be. Like a barrel going over a waterfalls, Raft of Stars sweeps its reader downstream, and fast. Hold on for the ride.”
— Nickolas Butler, author of Little Faith