January 19, 2024
In the World

True North

Andrew Graff’s second book True North already receiving rave reviews

Released just days ago, Andrew Graff’s second book True North, a 304-page novel, is quickly getting attention after receiving rave reviews in the Washington Post, Goodreads, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Graff, associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Wittenberg, takes readers back to his childhood home in Wisconsin’s Northwoods in his new novel, but this time for an adventure in marriage and white-water rafting as one couple, Sam and Swami Brecht, navigate the changing currents of family, community, and the river itself.

His debut book, Raft of Stars, landed on the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association best-sellers list just five days after its publication, appearing in the No. 13 spot on a list that included renowned writers Kazuo Ishiguro, Kristin Hannah, Brit Bennett, Harlan Coben, Fredrik Backman, and Lisa Scottoline for the week ending March 28, 2021. The book was also selected as an Indie Next pick for April 2021, named one of Parade’s Best Books for Spring 2021, and promoted as Lead Read by publisher Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins.

“When I finished writing Raft of Stars, which takes place in the fictional Wisconsin county of Marigamie County, I knew I wanted to keep writing about the Northwoods,” Graff said. “True North is that novel, and it was also an opportunity for me to explore several threads of my life. I’m a dad, a husband, and a whitewater raft guide. I’ve had this long-lived daydream about buying a rafting company, a camper, and living the van life with my family, which is exactly what the lead character does in True North. The novel is a story about family, river adventure, small towns and what it takes to pull off a dream in peril.”

While Raft of Stars focuses on a pair of 10-year-old boys who strike out on their own in northern Wisconsin, True North shifts to a hero who sometimes feels only slightly older. Book reviewer Ron Charles, who writes the Book Club newsletter for The Washington Post, describes Graff’s second novel as “a vacation that we all need,” adding that Graff’s work is also uplifting.

“Need to life your spirits? True North does the trick. In Andrew J. Graff’s novel, a man hatches a last-ditch plan to save his marriage and his finances,” Charles wrote in his Washington Post review. “Graff’s warmhearted story about a summer of white-water rafting, sounds like the vacation we all need. Graff’s second novel offers just enough drama to be exciting and just enough reassurance that everybody will get home safe. In these bleak times, who can argue with that? Still shaken by Paul Lynch’s Booker-winning ’Prophet Song,’ about a nation slipping into fascism, I was happy to run off for a spell in the Northwoods with Sam and his family. Given the paucity of hope and happiness in contemporary literary fiction, those feelings must be a lot harder to produce than irony and despair. If you’re looking for a story that lets grace finally wash over its characters, come on down. The water’s great.”

Stephanie Turza of the Booklist affirms these sentiments, noting that the book “Will appeal to anyone who can relate to giving everything you’ve got to one last plan.” And Publisher’s Weekly called the book “Exciting and intelligent ... Graff expertly balances his character-driven domestic fiction with an exciting adventure story.”

Earning a B.A. in English from Lawrence University and an M.F.A. in English (Fiction) from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Graff joined the Wittenberg faculty in Fall 2020, where he teaches courses in composition and creative writing. He has also been a white-water rafting guide for 20 years on numerous rivers. Both of his books take place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, where Graff grew up hiking and fishing, and where he returned after serving a tour in Afghanistan as a U.S. Air Force jet mechanic and finishing his education.

Graff marked the launch of his second book with an appearance at an event hosted by Boswell Book Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Jan. 16. He then returned to Wittenberg on Thursday, Jan. 18, for a book release party hosted by the English Department in Ness Auditorium in Hollenbeck Hall where he read from his newly published novel and signed copies after the event.

Available through HarperCollins Publishers, the book is on sale now here.

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About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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