Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

Setting Free the Kites

Alex George

Unforgettable and heart-breaking, Setting Free the Kites is a poignant and moving exploration of the pain, joy, and glories of young friendship.

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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.


Advance Galley Reviews

I love books with an appealing title. Though I was new to the author, I was drawn to it by the title and was not disappointed. Setting Free the Kites is filled with so much tragedy and sadness, but filled with joy and greatness too. Alex George has written a beautiful story! And I loved every bit of it.

A coming of age story following two teenage boys during a couple years of their friendship, this novel explores grief, love and intense friendship. Robert is the son of an amusement park owner and is more of the cautious worrier than Nathan, who just wants to climb the highest heights and fly. I thought this was a beautifully written novel and even when events somewhat suspended belief, it was immensely readable. I look forward to reading more from this author and I will definitely check out his first book.

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George is a nostalgic yet poignant coming of age novel which takes place on the coast of Maine during the mid seventies. In 2016, the demolition of a long vacant paper mill is the catalyst for Robert Carter’s recollections of his long ago friendship with Nathan Tilly. The two boys meet in 1976 after Nathan’s family relocates to Haverford from Texas. Thirteen year old Robert notices Nathan right away, but he is more concerned about bully Hollis Calhoun than making new friends. Just as Hollis is visiting a new torture on his poor, beleaguered victim, bold and brash Nathan steps in to rescue Robert. Nathan’s adventurous spirit and indomitable zest for life is the perfect foil for Robert’s more cautious approach to life and the two boys enjoy many fun-filled exploits over the course of their friendship. The youngest of the Carter sons, Robert is often eclipsed by his older brother Liam who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Their parents dote on Liam while his health deteriorate as his disease worsens. Robert adores Liam yet he is ever mindful of the very different relationships the two boys have with their parents. Not one to rock the boat (or break the rules), Robert tries to keep out of trouble and the limelight since his parents have enough to worry about with Liam’s illness. Robert’s unexpected friendship with Nathan is one escapade after another as the two boys run free and embark on fun-filled days out of the sight of their parents. Nathan’s unbridled optimism is a stark contrast to Robert’s fears and concerns yet Robert is always quick to overcome his doubts about whatever exploit Nathan proposes. Even in the midst of heartbreaking losses, they manage to find a way to step outside their grief and find happiness in each other’s company. Not even the mundane jobs they undertake at Robert’s family amusement park can put a damper on their exploits but even the strongest bonds can be tested when one of the boys discovers his first love. While the overall story is incredibly heartfelt and enjoyable, there are a few things that occur toward the end of the novel that need mentioning. Without giving away any spoilers, here are a few observations about the most notable revelations and plot twists. Late in the story, one of the characters does something that is so out of character that is impossible to believe. Heavy foreshadowing from the first chapter hints at one of the events that occurs so it should not come as a surprise to readers once it finally happens. And the final plot twist is an absolute delight and explains an awful lot about one of the secondary characters. Setting Free the Kites is a very moving novel of friendship that is quite compelling. The coastal setting is harsh yet beautiful Alex George brings it vibrantly to life. Robert and Nathan are wonderfully developed characters that are multi-dimensional and so life-like it is difficult to believe they are fictional. The storyline is engaging and although each family experiences devastating losses, the boys’ adventures and natural resiliency prevent the novel from becoming bogged down in grief. Readers will appreciate the touching epilogue that completely wraps up any loose ends. An extremely heartwarming and engaging story that will appeal to readers of all ages.

After I started this book, it took me to my own childhood. The boy, Robert Carter, was born the same year I was. I really felt this book. I have to say when I was reading it one of my first thoughts was the author knows about this time frame. I was shocked to learn he is actually very young. I will never understand how he was able to bring such life to a period known to him. This book is a coming of age sort of book. Robert has an older brother who they are just waiting for him to die. Then he meets a friend, who saves him from the school bully, and his whole life changes. It takes us through a few years of their lives and the hardships that go along with it. Very well written book and absolutely loved it. I would definitely would recommend it. Loved it!

So many of these characters jump out of the book as full-fledged people. The author did an excellent job developing them!

Great coming of age story. I enjoyed every word. Thanks for the opportunity to read this.

I would give this book 1-1/2 out of 5 stars. At first, I was captivated by the friendship between 13-year old Rob (the narrator) and Nathan, a newcomer to the area. But then a senseless tragedy occurred that was completely out of the blue and described very unrealistically for drama's sake. The rest of the book was very over-written, and in addition to many more tragedies (again, some senseless), I felt everyone was a caricature (instead of a well-written character) through the story telling. The author even broke from the story telling for three very long stories within a story, with only one have an impact on the overall book. I thought the book had promise, but poor writing just got in the way.

Setting Free the Kites is hopeful, mournful, inspiring, despairing, and beautiful. I was enchanted, spellbound, captivated - all words that don't give quite enough explanation for how lovely I found this novel. George writes a beautiful coming-of-age tale for Robert, a wise young man with self-awareness and deep emotions. His father owns a small amusement park in Maine, his brother is dying of a terrible terminal disease, his best friend is fearless and perhaps a touch insane, and it is all woven into a story that leaves you hanging on to every word. George's prose is soothing and elegant, which gives the tragedies of Robert's life all the more punch. I frequently found myself gaping at the book, thinking "he just did what now?" There are a few moments within the book that removed me from the story - some loose ends left hanging, some unbelievable moments - that move it just slightly out of 5 star range for me. All in all, this novel did exactly what I'm looking for in my fiction reading: I was transported, I was engaged, and most of all, I was moved. *I received an advance copy of Setting Free the Kites from Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George is a beautifully, heartbreaking coming-of-age story about two boys growing up in a small town in Maine. The writing was wonderful and the story flowed with ease until smacking you in the face with melancholy moments throughout the book. Highly recommend.

A coming of age story. A story of friendship. A story of loss and grief. All of these come together in Setting Free the Kites by Alex George. The memorable writing places me in the heart of Haverford, Maine. In fact, I love the storytelling in this book more more than the actual story. Some twists and connections in the plot leave me wondering, but the storytelling weaves everything together in a way that keep me reading. Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2017/01/setting-free-kites.html. Reviewed for the Penguin First to Read program.

(Please read this whole review!) I had to force myself to pick this book up - so I set aside some time after dinner (around 6pm) and made some tea - I was going to start. this. book. If it killed me. I was not interested in the subject; I had never heard of the author; I had zero time to waste on a book that wasn't entertaining - work and life are stressful enough right now. I struggled... STRUGGLED ... through the first few pages. And then.... suddenly, it was midnight, and I had finished the book. There was a pile of used tissues by my side and hope in my heart. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this book. It is a well-written, GORGEOUS book and I will forever be a fangirl of Alex George - this man has a way with words and an unexpected perspective on life that ANYone can understand and everyone can identify with. Robert Carter, an 8th grader who is timid and afraid, and resigned to life as a bully's target; he follows all of the rules (written and unwritten) ... and then one day he meets the new kid, Nathan Tilly (who coincidentally saves him from the bully.) Nathan is unlike anyone Robert has ever met - he's brave and funny and crazy and fun and amazing and out there and he tests the limits and laughs at rules. The two form a friendship that should last a lifetime, forged and bonded through death and tragedy and fun and life and laughter and the pain of those middle school-into-high school years. This book is a reminder to all that life is meant to be lived. I received Alex George's "Setting Free the Kites" from Penguin's First to Read program.

I could not put this book down. Captivating. Interesting characters, great story flow that kept you wanting more! Complex relationships and life experiences. This is a good book that everyone should read. Highly recommend! You think the story is going one way but by the turn of a page it goes another totally unexpected. Fabulous coming of age story. Deals with some tough issues such as bullying and having an impaired sibling that gets most of the attention. Great writing and story telling takes you on this journey. Thanks for letting me read this book! Five stars!

An absolutely captivating story of two young boys and their path to adulthood. The relationship that Nathan has with his family is painfully relatable. The detail that pours over the pages really conveys the emotions that each character experiences. I couldn't put the book down.

A beautifully written story about friendship, bullying, and loss. In this coming of age story about two young boys with nothing in common and yet became close of friends, set out to discover what freedom means while coping with a loss. I enjoyed reading this book, and I was unable to put it down. Bullying is a very delicate subject, and I find it a bit uneasy to see it unfold between the two main characters and the bully, but the author used the right amount of details. I really liked the epilogue, which has all kind of emotions. I'd recommend this book to anyone.

It has taken me a few days to collect my thoughts on this book. It might be categorized as a young-adult or coming of age story, but don't let that deter you from reading this if you tend to not reach for those kinds of genres. There was a lot going on in this book and a few serious issues were covered. However, the author did an amazing job making the characters and settings so vividly realistic. The way he presented the story was like sitting down and listening to a relative talk about the past. His descriptions were effortless and instantly transported you to each and every scene. I couldn't wait to snuggle back up and continue reading a few more chapters!! "For me the smell of summer was not the salty tang of the ocean, nor the ambrosial scent of young blueberries, but the sour chemical whiff of antiseptic cream that my mother would slather on my bumpy mosaic of bites, a constellation of unending irritation." Robert Carter is a wonderful main character. He's young, but one of those kids who is just wise beyond their years due to some rough life experiences. He is the one who is cautious, timid and a rule follower. Then there is Nathan Tilly who is the exact opposite. He is outspoken, carefree and extremely adventurous. The two seem like an unlikely pair, but they each bring out the best qualities in one another. At the beginning of the story, they become fast friend in eighth grade. Nathan saves Robert from a very unfortunate bullying experience. This book is about true friendship. Surrounding yourself with people who you really connect with. Having that one friend who sees you through your heartbreaks, pushes you outside of your comfort zone and sticks by your side through it all. This book is about grief and hope. The need to seek hope even when your life is flipped upside down by the death of a loved one, or feeling abandoned in your time of grief or when tragedy unexpectantly occurs. Yes, this book covers all of those issues that are sometimes difficult to talk about. Robert's brother is battling a life threatening illness, there are a few deaths, a couple tragedies and parents who check out on their responsibilities as a way to cope themselves. Even though this story takes you through a mixture of experiences, it's still manages to be an uplifting story. Maybe because the two main characters are young, naive and offer up quite a few comedic scenes. Keep an eye out for that mongoose!!! At the same time, they are both very insightful and it was a joy to watch their friendship blossom as they nurtured one another along the way. "Grief did not bring people closer. Loss turned you inward and shut you down." This would make a wonderful selection for a book group. There is so much that can be discussed and analyzed, yet you don't want to give away too much because you want a new reader to experience every little bit of this book without any spoilers. I would definitely go back and reread this on multiple times. I simply adored all of the characters and felt every single emotion that they dealt with.

I read this book in two days. I loved it! "Setting Free the Kites" starts out with a not so small problem of bullying and draws you in with tragedy and the courage to move on. You quickly become invested in Robert's life and the ups and downs that he encounters. Alex George writes as if you were growing up right alongside with Robert and Nathan - taking you back to your middle school years. Despite all the tragedies and loss, George brings a friendship to life. Reminding us that life goes on, he encourages his readers to look on the bright side, bringing optimism to even the most mundane of activities. "Setting Free the Kites" invigorated me to open my eyes to new possibilities and maybe even go outside to fly a kite. Highly recommended!

Thank you, Penguin and First to Read for the opportunity to read this ARC. Alex George writes so fluidly and wonderful. The novel was great! I loved the plot, I loved each character, I loved the ending. I think young adults and adults would find this one really fun to read.

At the outset, I want to say that in spite of the many things I loved about this book , there were a couple of things that made this fall short of 5 stars. Close to the end something happened with a character that didn't seem to fit and there is a revelation that felt a little overwritten. I wanted to get that out of the way so I could focus on why this is such a wonderful book. It's one of those beautifully written introspective stories which allows the reader to reside in the heart and mind of the young narrator, Robert, who as many young narrators that I am drawn to, has wisdom beyond his years. In essence , it's a coming of age story reflecting the importance of family and friendship. It's also a story of loss and grief. At first I wondered if I should be reading it now, having recently lost my mother but it's such a beautiful story I did not want to put it aside. It is about loss of loved ones but also about having had the privilege of loving them so in spite of my own grief, this worked for me. What can I say about the writing? I can tell you that I was in Haverford, Maine. I was taken there, to the snowy, freezing ,winter and to the beginning of beautiful summers when Robert's family's amusement park opened. I could clearly see the kites as they disappeared into the sky when Robert helps his friend Nathan get through a difficult loss. There is something sentimental about this story - the place , this time in the 1970's as it begins. There is a somber tone but yet it is interspersed with moments of pure joy. There is death here but yet so much life. There are several heartbroken characters trying desperately to cope, but my heart was mostly broken for Robert who as sad as he was, became a beacon for reason and hope. I wish I could have given it 5 stars but it's a solid 4 stars and a high recommendation. I received an advanced copy of this book from G.P. Putnam's Sons through Penguin First to Read.

This was a fabulous coming of age, thought provoking book. Set in the 70's this book starts out as a memoir of Robert and his life dealing with a dying brother. Robert is also bullied at school but is saved by the new kid, Nathan. They become fast friends. What follows is a story of two boys dealing with death, parents, and girls. This book was so beautifully written with parts that totally gut you but yet leave you with hope. The characters are well written and I felt like I connected with each of them. The author brings everything together at the end without it being cheesy and predictable.

I am a huge fan of coming of age stories and I was nothing short of floored by this book. The relationship between the boys is filled with loss as they deal with the loss of a father and a brother. I loved the character development and was intrigued by the originality of the location and events. I will never forget the kite part of the story. It is a powerful metaphor.

Disclaimer: I was offered an early version of this book via First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted to goodreads.com The book was written in the first person and the main character - Robert - wrote it in his forties looking back on two pivotal years in his life: his 8th grade and freshman year in high school. There were four characters in this book that died and it affected the main character of this book profoundly in ways that affected his entire life: his sickly brother, his best-friend's father, his best friend and his mentor...all within a two-year period! However, the story was light-hearted, heart felt and innocent as was this 14-15 year old kid in 1976-78. Scattered throughout this coming of age story was his discovery of grief, the real world and realizations about his family he never thought possible. He was the cautious one, his best friend was not; he was introduced to adventures that opened his eyes, made him seek freedom and redemption. Most of all, it opened his eyes to becoming an adult, maybe against his will. What I liked about this book was all the parallels I could relate with although at different points of my life. I worked at a similar amusement park though it wasn't on the grand scale as the one in this book. I experienced similar deaths in my life (my best friend's father, my mother at an early age, my mentor). I really enjoyed reading this story and identifying with all the characters. I will definitely be seeking out other Alex George novels. He was able to take real life situations and translate them through the eyes of a pre-adult kid perfectly!

I received Alex George's "Setting Free the Kites" from Penguin's First to Read giveaway. Mr. George's book is a captivating coming of age story. The stories of Robert and Nathan are told with a sparse and sincere freshness that made me feel catapulted in time, back to 1976, when life really was less encumbered. The searing losses that both families suffer unfold with unflinching and unapologetic simplicity. Both boys ultimately created their own destinies--so vastly different from one another--in perfect keeping with who they really were throughout their lives. A thoughtful and worthwhile read.

This book begins in 1976 and covers two years in the friendship between the narrator Robert Carter and his best (and seemingly only) friend Nathan Tilly. They are around 13 or 14 when the story begins. Nathan is an optimistic free spirit and occasionally reckless. Neither boy is getting a lot of parental attention, but for different reasons. Despite Nathan's inherently positive approach to life, this is a pretty melancholy book. From the very beginning there is always sadness surrounding even their more playful moments. Growing up isn't easy and the boys and their parents have to face bullying, illness, tragedy and grief. It definitely held my interest and, for the most part, it felt very real. However, it turned out that Mrs. Tilly was keeping a secret which I doubt would have been possible to hide in real life. I have sort of mixed feelings about this book. It was well written and I wanted to know how it turned out, but it didn't make me feel good. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Setting Free The Kites is beautifully written story that explores loss, love, and hope centered around the friendship of two young boys growing up in Maine. Truly a wonderfully written book that I did not want to see end. Alex George has written another winner that I would recommend!

A compelling story about friendship, family, and loss. Two middle school boys strike up a friendship after a bullying incident at school. New student Nathan comes to Roberts rescue when he is being bullied in the school locker room. What happens after this incident takes them down a path that neither one could imagine. In this story both boys suffer a family loss, Nathan's Father unexpectedly falls from the roof of the family home leaving Nathan and his Mother to find their way in a new town, and Robert's brother passes away after battling a life long illness. No matter the circumstances of their loss, each boy seeks to find peace from their grief in their own way. This story was well written and easy to read, even with all the loss in each character's story. There were many lines that I found myself re reading just to savor the meaning and feeling just a bit more. I think one of the lines that has stuck with me the most is "Death leave a heartache no on can heal, loves leave a memory no one can steal." How true those words are.

I read this as part of Penguin's First to Read Program. It is a wonderful story of two young boys growing up in Maine & growing into young men. The events these two face from the very beginning are trying, heartbreaking, funny, emotional & life altering. It took me a little bit to get into the story; I felt the beginning was a little slow, but once the characters developed a little more I was drawn in and couldn't pull away from it. The Epilogue is probably one of the best I have ever read. So glad I had the opportunity to read this. I will be recommending it to other readers! "Hope is a curious thing. It emerges in the most unexpected places."

I read this as part of Penguin's First to Read Program. This is a story of memories and grief and love and friendship set in a small town in Maine, complete with a family run amusement park. This alone sounded very interesting to me and I was not disappointed. It was beautifully written with a cast of interesting characters. I read the entire thing in less than 24 hours in the small spaces of time I had between work and other family activities. I didn't think that I would be that drawn into the story, but it really sucked me in and I felt like I never wanted to stop reading.

A wonderful story of a young man growing up in the 1970's in Maine. Robert Carter experiences true friendship with Nathan Tilly who recently moved to Maine from Texas. Nathan teaches Robert to really live. Alex George creates characters of depth and feeling. It almost seems possible to hear the waves as he describes the boys times at the beach. The summertime at the family amusement park provides the boys an opportunity to begin to realize their identities. Throughout it all, Robert experiences so many losses that shape his life.

“Nathan Tilly gave me the story I’m going to tell, but it was the old paper mill that set my memories free.” By 2016, the old paper mill had not been operational for more than fifty years, the land sold, the old mill to be razed and replaced by some modern convenience. It matters not, really, what is to replace it. For some, it’s part of the town’s history, and for others… the history is more personal. “…early morning sunlight falls into the cathedral-like space where vast pulping machines once rumbled from dawn to dusk, the town’s beating heart.” And so Robert Carter has returned to pay his last respects to the memories gathered at this place, two summers filled with memories of his youth, a time of so much change. Two young boys so filled with life and unquenchable thirst for adventure, defying the gravity of looming adulthood. In 1976, the summer that Nathan Tilly moved to Haverford with his mother and father, was unbearably humid, the air filled with horseflies torturing all. With summer’s end approaching, Robert’s dread of returning to school rises, with no hope in sight of reprieve. Robert knows once school begins, the terror of being in the range of Hollis Calhoun’s fists grows closer. On the first day of school, Robert meets Nathan Tilly after Nathan comes to his aid when Hollis Calhoun can’t wait another minute to begin another year of terror. I loved this story, it's a wonderful coming-of-age story. A bit reminiscent of “Stand By Me” in the sense of the tomfoolery of boys out exploring, but there’s more to it than that. Returning to the memories of childhood, or to the memories of the place where you grew up, the regrets you had then, the regrets you still have, the friendships, the impact those friendships still have on you. Facing your fears. Love. Loss. Even facing the flaws in those whom you love. Even if you’ve never left, there’s history in those places tied around your heart that can never be broken, and they lead down so many different trails of thoughts, of memories. Setting Free the Kites” by Alex George is a heartbreakingly unforgettable journey through the memories of two young men, with all the joy and pain and splendor of the friendships that shape who we become. Pub Date: 21 February 2017 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Penguin Random House and author Alex George

This book could be simply described as a coming of age story between 2 friends (Robert Carter & Nathan Tilly) growing up in Maine during the '70s. That description short changes the reader on a great read that taps into all facets of life's emotions with enthralling descriptions and images. I enjoyed the interactions between the 2 best friends as well as the described "soundtrack" of music. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

In the first 40 pages, we discover that Robert has been repeatedly victimized by a bully, that his brother has muscular dystrophy and his parents are running an aging theme park. Within those same 40 pages, we experience Nathan losing his father and his pet on the same day and are introduced to the idea that Nathan is largely neglected by his mother. Less than a third of the way through the book, I feel that the author is a sadist to do this to both his characters and readers. While the book, in its totality, may have many merits, I was unable to move past the first third.

I was about a third of the way into another book when I opened Setting Free the Kites by Alex George. I was just going to get the publisher’s name for my spreadsheet where I track books I have promised to read and review. Then I made the mistake of reading the first paragraph. Do not do this if you have places to go, things to do, and people to see. From the first page, you will be lost in late Seventies Maine with two wonderful young boys who find joy in life even in the midst of incomparable tragedies. Robert Carter and Nathan Tilly met on the first day of Eighth Grade. Nathan was a newcomer to town and intervened when Hollis Calhoun, town bully and Robert’s nemesis, was holding Robert’s head in the toilet while flushing. A visit to the principal’s office doesn’t quite cement their friendship, but when the next day Nathan’s father falls off a roof in front of them and dies, they are bound by being witness and by the tragedy. Nathan wears his grief deep inside. On the outside, it’s all bravado. His mother seems to shut down, closing him out, shutting herself in her office typing endlessly. Nathan doubts she even puts paper in the typewriter. As Robert says later in the book, “Grief did not bring people closer. Loss turned you inward and shut you down.” Robert’s older brother Liam has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and his family knows that he will die. He hears his parents talking, his father grateful for al the time they have and his mother fretting about all the time they won’t have. He and Nathan spend a lot of time with Liam whose spirit is certainly not ready to give in. He’s sending out college applications, even if it’s likely he won’t be well enough to go, if he lives that long. The story follows Robert and Nathan’s friendship through family tragedy, grief, and all sorts of adventures and misadventures. There are hysterically funny scenes including one with a mongoose, a miniature golf attraction, and the bully Hollis that will never be forgotten. There’s joy in the midst of sorrow, such as a wild wheelchair adventure on ice that will make you smile while your heart is breaking. It’s all profoundly human, full of a gentle and compassionate love for the characters. Robert’s dad owns the Fun-a-lot, a carnival that is the town’s major attraction, bringing in the tourists that are its main support. One of my favorite lines comes from Lewis, the old maintenance man that Robert works with during the summer. When Robert is puzzled that people are not having as much fun as he expects, Lewis explains that they dream of a vacation with their family, but when they get there, they realize they don’t much like spending time with them. “That’s the most valuable thing about full-time employment, Robert. It keeps you away from the people you love.” I loved Setting Free the Kites. As the saying goes, “I laughed, I cried…” The balance of grief and joy had me on an emotional roller-coaster every bit as wild as the roller-coaster at Fun-a-lot. I loved the friendship between Nathan and Robert. They were not friends simply because they both knew the nature of loss, but because they truly knew and loved each other. The complication of Nathan’s infatuation with an older student was funny, important, and profound. Their friendship with Lewis the caretaker was wonderful and heartwarming. There is such love for people in this book that I want everyone to read it. Nonetheless, I can’t give it my top rating. I want to eliminate the entirely unnecessary epilogue. I wish I had not read it. Not that it betrayed the story, but it was just so completely unnecessary. I did not need Robert to read about Nathan’s mom in the paper. It was so much better suspecting and believing this glimmering fancy without its absolute confirmation. Stories like this do not need to wrapped up forty years later with children raised and everything settled. It’s like Alex George wrote this wonderful story and then in the end, decided he could not trust us readers at all. He had to spell out the obvious and explain the explicable. Framing the story around the old mill at the beginning and the end, but in the epilogue, he could have had Robert come home, put on his brother’s record and skip all the rest of the updates. That tendency to explain too much is a small, but discordant, thread throughout the book. There are these beautifully written passages that say so much. Even small sentences that grasp your heart, but then when explicated lose all their power. When Liam dies (not a spoiler, you know it will happen from the beginning of the book), Robert’s father sighed, “Sometimes, bad news doesn’t travel fast enough.” He’s sitting at the phone with the list of friends and family he needed to inform. We didn’t need three paragraphs about those phone calls. That sentence was enough. Aside from those quibbles, I loved Setting Free the Kites. I loved Robert and Nathan, Lewis, Liam, Robert’s parents, and nearly everyone in the book. I loved how Robert heard glimpses of his parents’ marriage that helped him understand them as individuals, not as parents alone. I loved the gruff kindness of Lewis. I loved how deeply situated this story is in its setting. You will feel that you are really there in Maine, on the beach, at the mill, at the carnival, The setting is fully realized, as much as the people are. I love that I came to care so deeply about these people. I think you will, too. Setting Free the Kites will be released on February 17, 2017. I received an advance e-galley from First to Read, a project of Penguin Books.

 


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