RAFT OF STARS – by Andrew J. Graff
Published by Ecco / Available March 2021
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Overview: After a domestic shooting, two friends escape to the woods of Wisconsin to follow the river away from their homes. Four adults soon give chase, racing against time to reach the boys before they roll over the edge of Ironsforge gorge to their deaths. All of them will face their own truths before the end.
The Good: Graff’s writing is easy, yet smart and powerful. His characters are deep and facing life-changing turmoil within themselves. There’s past versus present selves throughout, begging the question of growth and the way we escape or embrace the moments that have defined us. The plot is basic on the surface, but in a classical sort of way. The drama in and between the characters more than makes up for that simplicity. This is a beautiful story that would do well in middle or high school literature studies.
The Bad: By the time I was about 70% into the novel, I began to drag in my reading. It wasn’t that nothing was happening – there was actually more excitement about this point of the story – but I was tired of the wilderness. I feel like I would have loved this story more had it been a long novella instead. And yet, I also would have liked to follow the paths of several characters that seemed to phase in and out during the final third of the novel. It’s a bit conflicting, I know.
The Takeaway: Raft of Stars is a piece of historical fiction that is powerful, emotional, and thought-provoking. The setting is used majestically, and creates a wonderful and entrancing atmosphere throughout. The characters are three-dimensional with conflicts you’ll care to explore. Graff’s debut comes highly recommended for fans of survival and domestic dramas.
File Under: Drama … Coming-of-Age … In the Wild … Survival … Domestic Drama … Historical Fiction
Also See: This is the author’s debut novel. There are no other titles to recommend.