Thank you to Ecco books for sending me a free copy of Raft of Stars in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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.
Raft of Stars has such a great set up, two boys running away from a crime they committed. This sounded to me like the makings of a fantastic coming of age story. And while the book was enjoyable, I felt like it lacked the depth that I was expecting. The entire book alternates between the boys running away, getting deeper into the forest, and the adults chasing after them. I felt like the novel focused on what was going on and the action, and not as much on character or plot development. The result is a novel that feels much more like a YA story than a mature and emotional read. There were quite a few characters with baggage, but once again they don’t get developed enough to allow a chance to feel any kind of connection with them. I think if you go into this book knowing it’s more an action story that a coming of age tale, you will enjoy it. And I did like it, but I was expecting to really love it, but that just wasn’t the case.