ABOUT THE BOOK
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. Sheriff Cal, who’s having doubts about a life in law enforcement; Tiffany, a purple-haired gas station attendant and poet looking for connection; Fish’s mother Miranda, full of fierce faith; and his granddad, Teddy, who knows the woods like the back of his hand.
This timeless story of loss, hope, and adventure runs like the river itself amid the vividly rendered landscape of the Upper Midwest.
PRAISE FOR RAFT OF STARS
“Andrew J. Graff’s engrossing, largehearted debut novel, Raft of Stars, is a book with a distinctly Rousseauian vibe. It is the story of what happens when two 10-year-old boys flee into the northern Wisconsin woods and how they, and their various adult pursuers, don’t merely survive, but shed their landlocked inhibitions and become better, bigger versions of themselves. . . . Graff, who is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, depicts his battle-scarred heroes with knowing generosity. In spare and unpretentious prose, he shows how their hard lives have left them wary and emotionally knotted. . . . But the wilderness softens them. Despite brushes with danger and death — roaring rapids, charging bears, loaded rifles, hunger — they don’t turn inward, nor do they turn against one another. No one goes Lord of the Flies. Instead, they do what they haven’t felt free to do in civilization: open up and cry, reveal their regrets and fears and needs.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“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.
“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...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
"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
“RAFT OF STARS is both a plot-driven wilderness adventure and a fragile coming-of-age story. Graff captures the pure connection between friends on the cusp of adulthood, struggling to love parents with sometimes-unforgivable imperfections, and the world created by his powerful, thrumming style is not so much a setting as it is a star-shot forest dreamscape of cedar trees, prowling coyotes, and sun-bleached scarecrows made of bone.”
“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.”
“[An] exquisitely crafted novel about two 10-year-old boys on the lam on a river raft . . . This novel is set in the lush northern Wisconsin where Graff himself grew up, and it is in some ways equally romantic, but also compellingly real. And the art and craft of this narrative, apparent from the first page with its sublime constellations of images, offers brutal beauty, the glinting edge of truth, and the possibility of redemption for the fifth-grade boys, and also for the adults chasing them. Finding their way through the thick, gnarled woods and along the perilous river, both children and adults show they can transcend the thicket of confusion surrounding their personal circumstances and emerge toward more clarity.”
—THE BOSTON GLOBE
FOLLOW ANDREW ON INSTAGRAM
Andrew J. Graff is the author of novel, RAFT OF STARS, Ecco - HarperCollins Publishers. 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 is a visiting writing prof at Wittenberg University.
RAFT OF STARS
ECCO - HARPERCOLLINS