“This coming-of-age story sets off with 10-year-old Fish walking in on a particularly brutal encounter between his best friend Bread and Bread’s father, grabbing a gun, and pulling the trigger. Frightened, the boys run.
They are pursued by Fish’s grandfather, the Sheriff, Tiffany (a gas station attendant from town), and Fish’s mother, each of these characters fleshed out and grappling with their own lives. Meanwhile, the boys must reckon with the violence, their consciences, each other, and nature itself.
Racing through the atmospheric backwoods of Wisconsin, this is a story of adventure and growing up (even when you’re already an adult).”
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. Sheriff Cal, who’s having doubts about a life in law enforcement; Tiffany, a purple-haired gas station attendant and poet looking for connection; Fish’s mother Miranda, full of fierce faith; and his granddad, Teddy, who knows the woods like the back of his hand.
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.