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True North
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Publishers Weekly Review
With this exciting and intelligent family drama, Graff returns to the Wisconsin Northwoods terrain of Raft of Stars. In 1993, Chicago transplants Sam and Swami Brecht arrive in the tiny town of Thunderwater to take over a white water rafting company from Sam's uncle. The couple met when they were both in college, working as rafting guides in West Virginia over summer break. After getting married, they've drifted far from their old lives ("They'd just changed, subtly as weathering rock"). Sam became an art teacher while Swami, who studied geology, has been consumed with motherhood. Now, in Thunderwater with their three young children, Sam hopes running the rafting company and living in a camper van will more closely resemble the setting where they met and fell in love. Their hopes for a pristine life are compromised, though, by a rival company aptly named X-treme Outdoor Adventures for its brazen marketing to the Mountain Dew crowd. Dangerous flooding and a mining company's ominous plans for the region add to the plot, which takes a tragic turn near the end. Graff expertly balances his character-driven domestic fiction with an exciting adventure story. Readers will enjoy the ride. Agent: Maggie Cooper; Aevitas Creative Management. (Jan.)
Booklist Review
With his marriage on unstable ground in the summer of 1993, Sam thinks spending time in the north woods of Wisconsin could solidify what he and Swami had lost. They had met on a river, after all, training as white water rafting guides in West Virginia so many years ago. Facing funding cuts to his position as an arts teacher, Sam makes a last-ditch investment to save his uncle's failing rafting business and give his family the experiences he hopes could bring them closer together. But the town of Thunderwater is at a crossroads, with a big mining conglomerate bidding top dollar for every scrap of land, and a newer, flashier rafting company all too happy to scoop up customers. As Sam, Swami, and their colleagues navigate threats to their town, the business, and their families, inner strength and loyalties are tested. Graff (Raft of Stars, 2021) charts the path of a marriage in crisis, with small slights and missteps threatening to send either party overboard. Sam and Swami echo the stubborn, resilient couples found in works by Matthew Norman, Sarah Dunn, and Meg Wolitzer, and True North will appeal to anyone who can relate to giving everything you've got to one last plan.
Kirkus Review
Trouble doesn't stay behind when this family moves up north. With his wife, Swami, and their three kids in tow, Sam Brecht drives a shiny new camper van from Chicago to the river-and-lake country of northern Wisconsin, where they've just bought a recreational rafting company from Chip, Sam's uncle. They've agreed to go just for the summer, but Swami doesn't know that Sam's teaching job has been cut, he's booked the campground beyond summer, and he's not planning to go back. Cowardly as it is, we can see why Sam keeps secrets from his wife, who refers to the children as hers and the business as Sam's--neither as shared. Feeling "relief layered on top of the guilt" of their estrangement, Sam is relying on "a miracle" to solve the problems of his career and his marriage. When they arrive at Woodchuck Rafting, however, what they find is a disorganized (but charming) band of misfits. It's unclear why they'd expect anything else: Sam and Swami met and fell in love as rafting guides. In flashbacks and chapters told from her perspective, we see that Swami is more than the ball-and-chain wife Sam fails to placate. While Sam falls back into old vices such as smoking pot at work, Swami takes charge of shoring up the business against three existential threats: a new VC-funded competitor, a land-grabbing mining conglomerate, and unceasing rain. The novel picks up steam as it reveals which is the greatest menace. At a town meeting with the mining company, Sam makes a pitch for saving the local environment and economy: "I don't know how, exactly…But it's up to us. If we both try." The crowd is confused, but it's clear Sam is speaking to Swami. As chaos mounts, can they save both their family and Sam's vision of life up north? A conventional story of marriage on the rocks with a background of local environmental drama. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

From the author of Raft of Stars comes a heartfelt novel of marriage and whitewater rafting, following one couple as they navigate the changing currents of family, community, and the river itself.

As the summer of 1993 begins, Sam and Swami Brecht roll into town with a twenty-six-foot Winnebago camper van, their three young kids, and the deed to Woodchuck Rafting Company. Sam and Swami met as young, adventurous river guides but, a decade later, find themselves weighed down by money worries and the demands of adulthood. The town of Thunderwater, in Wisconsin's Northwoods, could be the fresh start their marriage needs. But Woodchuck, once the property of Sam's eccentric uncle, has seen better days and will need a serious overhaul if it is going to stand a chance at survival.

Soon Sam and Swami learn they are not the only ones looking for change and profit on the river. A competing rafting outfit, clashing raft guides, stubborn townsfolk, and an exploratory mining company begin to threaten their tenuous livelihood. Then nature intervenes, in the form of historic floods throughout the Midwest. Amid tumultuous currents both on and off the river, Sam and Swami struggle to maintain the new life they've built. Before the summer draws to a close, the Brechts must learn to face the floodwaters together in order to create a sustainable future for their family, the town, and the pristine river from which it all flows.

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