BOOK REVIEW: Raft of Stars by Andrew J Graff


Publication Date: March 23, 2021
Format: Paperback
Genre:  Coming of Age

Publisher: Ecco
298  pages
Buy:  Kindle Paperback 


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.


This was a really great book about coming of age and friendship.  Fish and Bread are best friends, Bread's father is an abusive drunk who frequently takes out his rage on Bread. Fish lives with his mom and stays with his grandfather in the summer, his father is gone. One night Fish has a terrible feeling and goes to help rescue his friend.  Things get out of hand and they go on the run after Fish shoots Breads father. 

Hot on their tale are Teddy, Fish's grandfather who knows the woods like the back of his hand and Sheriff Cal from Texas.  He is a reluctant cop, not really feeling the job anymore. He doesn't like distancing himself from people, which is what he feels he needs to do in order to get the job done.  Miranda, Fish's mom stays at Teddy's ranch waiting for word on her son.  Tiffany is supposed to be watching Sheriff Cal's dog but he escaped and she thought he might wind up at Teddy's. What she finds instead is Miranda, and a friendship she has longed for but hasn't found. 

As each of the characters sets off they all find themselves searching not only for lost boys or redemption, but for themselves and the things they are lacking in their lives. This is a quick read but it is not lacking in substance.  I really enjoyed it. 

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