2017 G.P. Putnam's Sons
Finished on March 12, 2022
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)
From the author of the "lyrical and compelling" (USA Today) novel A Good American comes a powerful story of two friends and the unintended consequences of friendship, loss, and hope.
For Robert Carter, life in his coastal Maine hometown is comfortably predictable. But in 1976, on his first day of eighth grade, he meets Nathan Tilly, who changes everything. Nathan is confident, fearless, impetuous--and fascinated by kites and flying. Robert and Nathan's budding friendship is forged in the crucible of two family tragedies, and as the boys struggle to come to terms with loss, they take summer jobs at the local rundown amusement park. It's there that Nathan's boundless capacity for optimism threatens to overwhelm them both, and where they learn some harsh truths about family, desire, and revenge.
Unforgettable and heart-breaking, Setting Free the Kites is a poignant and moving exploration of the pain, joy, and glories of young friendship.
It's been a decade since I first heard about Alex George. I received an ARC of his debut novel A Good American and read several chapters, but I couldn't get interested and eventually called it quits. A few years later Setting Free the Kites landed in my mailbox, and it wasn't until this past month as I was reorganizing my shelves that I noticed the review copy and moved it to my nightstand. I had forgotten that I had another one of George's novels and wasn't sure if it was for me until I glanced at the publisher's blurb. It might have been the 1970s setting or the coming-of-age reference, but whatever caught my eye, I'm glad it did. This is a great novel!
Narrated in the first person, I was quickly immersed in Alex George's compelling story and loved the developing bond between Robert and Nathan. I was reminded of a similar friendship between Owen Meany and John Wheelwright in A Prayer for Owen Meany. As with John Irving's outstanding novel, I felt emotionally connected to not only the young boys in George's terrific book, but also to the excellent cast of supporting characters. Lewis and Liam will stay with me right alongside Robert and Nathan. And like that great classic of Irving's, this book is also filled with tragedy and grief (some may say too much, but that's life, right?), which touched me deeply.
Alex George delivers an ultra-satisfying story. It's a beautiful novel and one I know I'll read again. I'm eager to try his latest book (The Paris Hours) and who knows, I might even go back and give A Good American a second chance.