While Andrew Graff ’09 has found a home in southwestern Ohio, his heart is never far from Wisconsin’s Northwoods. Or his beloved Lawrence University.

Nearly three years after Raft of Stars, his debut novel, drew wide praise, the Lawrence alumnus is back with a follow-up—True North, again on the Ecco-Harper Collins label, again set in the Northwoods, and again celebrating the people and the land that he’s embraced since his youth in Wisconsin’s Marinette County.

“I knew I wanted to keep writing about the north and its people and the rivers and the woods and the black bears and the stars,” Graff said of again setting his novel in the fictional Marigamie County. “I also wanted to write about white-water rivers, which are among my greatest passions in life.”

True North book cover

True North, set in 1993, is a family drama that finds Chicago transplants Sam and Swami Brecht—parents of three young children—purchasing and running a troubled white-water rafting company in the town of Thunderwater. There is, to say the least, much turbulence.

Graff knows the terrain well. He has worked as a white-water guide on and off for nearly 20 years, beginning during summers while a student at Lawrence.

The Washington Post calls True North a “warmhearted story” that “lets grace finally wash over its characters.” Publishers Weekly says: “Graff expertly balances his character-driven domestic fiction with an exciting adventure story.”

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It is praise that echoes what Graff heard in 2021 when Raft of Stars was highlighted as a must-read by Parade Magazine and USA TODAY, was chosen by HarperCollins as its lead spring title, and was named an “Indie Next” pick by the American Booksellers Association.

“It still feels really dreamy,” Graff said of the attention that followed his publishing debut.

In the three years since, he’s earned tenure at Wittenberg University, where he teaches English, and has been invited to speak as a visiting author at venues across the country. In March, he will be speaking to students in a graduate program at Seattle Pacific University. Lawrence English professor David McGlynn, himself an accomplished author and an important mentor to Graff, is also on the docket.

It was a 2021 invitation from McGlynn to return to Lawrence for a book reading in Main Hall that was the highlight of the entire Raft of Stars experience, Graff said. That is how important his time at Lawrence—in the English Department in particular—was in his development as a writer.

“That was the dreamiest peak of Raft of Stars for me,” he said. “Walking into Main Hall, with a published book, where I studied creative writing, where I took my first creative writing class. And I got to read. That was super sweet.”

Now Graff is hitting the road for book festivals and other appearances following the release of True North. At present, the closest he’s coming to Appleton is a stop at the Wisconsin Book Festival on Feb. 28, a 7 p.m. appearance at Madison Central Library.