Raft of Stars: Book summary and reviews of Raft of Stars by AndrewJ. Graff

Raft of Stars

A Novel

by AndrewJ. Graff

Raft of Stars by AndrewJ. Graff X
Raft of Stars by AndrewJ. Graff
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A]n 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...the result is never treacly; facing the life issues examined here in an unforgiving if beautifully rendered wilderness is no easy feat. Highly recommended, whether you want literate thrills or thoughtful, affirming meditation." - Library Journal (starred review)

"Graff's rewarding coming-of-age debut has a timeless, archetypal resonance...Though the resolution yields few surprises, 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

"The action sequences are exciting, though the reader has to overlook a few unlikely scenarios... Still, 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. A nostalgic coming-of-age story that plays out in a wild, intriguing setting." - 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." - Booklist

"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

This information about Raft of Stars shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Ginny H. (Troutdale, OR)

Raft of Stars
I am so amazed by the beauty of this book. What a wonderful story filled with characters that I learned to love and an adventure that keeps you on the top of your toes. The author is an amazing writer. I found myself having to stop after reading a sentence and admiring its perfection. I hope to find more books from this author in the future. This deserves more than a rating of 5 for Very Good. It was exceptional. This is one of the best books I've read in years.

Miriam B. (Lakewood Ranch, FL)

Raft of Stars is stellar!!!!
I loved Raft of Stars by Andrew J Graff and it was my book of the Fall 2020. The author made me care about the six main characters but especially the 2 boys- Fisher "Fish" Branson and Dale "Bread" Breadwin. Fish's grandfather Teddy and his mother Miranda are such strong wonderful people as is Sheriff Cal and Tiffany who is sweet on Cal. This story is such an adventure and was a real page turner.
The advice Miranda gives Fish is particularly perfect for this time of pandemic...... she says, "Just for a minute, just enjoy your pillow, just rest, let it go. Close your eyes and sail away from troubles on a raft made of stars!" Just change the word pillow to book and that is what we need now.......
The writing is beautiful and the book ends with words from Fish's grandfather, you are strong and you are good, and you are not alone." Amen.

Susan S. (Salida, CO)

Adventures like no other
If I could, I'd give Raft of Stars more than five stars! Two young boys on adventure in the woods near Claypot, Wisconsin with all the suspense of a cliff hanger. The characters reach out from the page and grab your heart – flawed and perfect, energetic and tired, ready for more and ready to quit.

Susan R. (Julian, NC)

Friendship
This is a book that I'd have never picked up -- a coming of age story about boys! Really? I won a copy from BookBrowse and knew I had to give it a chance. Wow - am I ever glad that I did. This debut novel was fantastic -- it not only featured the two young boys but also the adults in their lives. I laughed with the two boys and at times their friendship and honesty with each other made me cry. This is a book that I won't soon forget.

It's 1994 in a small town in Wisconsin. Fish has spent the summer with his grandfather ever since his father died three years ago. His best friend Bread lives with an extremely abusive father who constantly terrorizes him. The boys became best friends as soon as they met and they spend their summer in the woods, playing games and making up stories for their enjoyment. Until the summer night that Fish sees Bread's father hitting him and Fish grabs a gun and shoots him. The two boys know that they are in big trouble and head off into the woods to get as far away as possible. They make it to the river, make a raft and set out on their adventure to escape. They are being tracked by four adults who want to help them - 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 time the boys spend on the river is full of perilous situations that had this reader quickly turning pages to find out the outcome.

This book is more than a simple coming of age novel. It's a story about the bonds of friendship and the lengths that people will go through to help the people that they love - whether they are family by blood or family by friendship. Thanks to BookBrowse for a copy of this book to read and review. It was fantastic!

Randi H. (Bronx, NY)

Beautifully written
I loved this emotionally powerful story of two boys and the community that forms around when they find themselves in trouble. The writing is lush with a very strong sense of place, in this case the woods of northern Wisconsin. I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys character-driven novels.

Dorothy M. (Maynard, MA)

Kind of a Huck Finn for our time
Andrew Graff's debut novel is set a small town in Wisconsin where he grew up and it's a story about love and what happens to people who lose it or never had it. It begins with two friends - boys about 10 or 11. Fish lost a much-loved father to the war, and Bread lost his mother and lives with his father who is an abusive alcoholic. When Bread's father attacks Bread one too many times, Fish picks up the father's gun and shoots him. Terrified at what they have done the boys flee into the forest around them, sure that they can take care of themselves. Fish has been staying with his Grandfather for the summer. When the Sheriff calls him looking for the boys the grandfather convinces the sheriff to join in a chase on horseback into the woods to try and find them. This is a coming of age book about friendship, a story of people so unsure of themselves that they don't realize what is possible if they would only ask and it's a great page turner of an adventure story. You won't be able to put it down once the boys take to the river.

...12 more reader reviews

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More Information

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.

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