ISBN Setting Free the Kites
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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.
From the Hardcover edition.
About Alex George
The author of Setting Free the Kites and A Good American, Alex George is an Englishman who lives, works, and writes in the middle of America. He studied law at Oxford University and worked for eight years as a corporate lawyer in…
Copyright © 2017 Alex George
Haverford, Maine, 2015
Nathan Tilly gave me the story I m going to tell, but it was the old paper mill that set my memories free.
I read the report in the Haverford Gazette the previous week. The mill has not been operational for more than fifty years, but now the land has been sold to a supermarket chain, and the old building is to be razed to make way for a customer parking lot. The news has prompted vigorous local debate. Some are angry that the city council has allowed part of our municipal heritage to be sold off. Others are excited at the prospect of fresh bagels. Such is progress.
For myself, I m sorry to see the old place go. I want to pay my last respects, watch the thing go down.
The lower end of Bridge Street is lined with mud-encrusted pick-ups and vans. I have to double back and park on the other side of the river. It is a beautiful, fresh spring morning. The faintest of breezes is coming in off the ocean. As I walk across the bridge I can hear someone shouting instructions through a bullhorn.
Warning signs have been posted along the road, keeping the curious at bay. Authorized Personnel Only. Hard Hat Required. I keep my distance. A huge crane is parked in front of the old building, its arm stretched high into the sky. A wrecking ball hangs at the end of the crane s thick steel rope, fat and heavy with the threat of violence. The mill s giant wooden doors have been padlocked shut my entire life, but now they are opened wide, and early morning sunlight falls into the cathedral-like space where vast pulping machines once rumbled from dawn to dusk, the town s beating heart. Workmen in reflector vests walk in and out, murmuring into walkie-talkies. I guess they are checking all three floors for uninvited visitors before the walls start crashing down.
The mill s red brick chimney rises tall and straight into the sky. By lunchtime it will be gone.
At precisely nine o clock there is a long, shrill blast from a whistle. A man climbs into the cabin of the crane and turns on the ignition. As the engine rumbles to life, the arm of the crane begins to move from side to side, and the wrecking ball starts to swing.
The old mill has been on the brink of demolition for years. Up and down this part of the southern Maine coast, from Biddeford to Brunswick, abandoned industrial buildings have been rescued and revivified, artfully repurposed for twenty-first century living. Those ancient spaces have been reborn as art galleries, office suites with double-height ceilings, and organic delicatessens selling squid ink pasta from Umbria and artisanal cheeses from Vermont. Everyone has been waiting for a similar metamorphosis to happen in Haverford. It hasn t been for want of trying: in 2004 a consortium of property speculators from away went crazy for the mill s exposed brickwork. An architect was commissioned to design a warren of luxury condominiums with reclaimed timber floors and glinting chrome appliances. But the town lacked the necessary real estate mojo to pull it off. No matter how pretty the artist s impressions in the brochure looked, nobody was buying. Not a single unit was sold, and the promised renovation never happened. The place has remained abandoned and deserted ever since.
The wrecking ball is swinging fiercely now, slicing through the air in ever more violent arcs. The crane operator begins to rotate the cabin, gradually turning it toward the old walls. I feel my body stiffen in anticipation of the fir
Columbia Daily Tribune
George s effortless and beautiful prose flows off of the page to construct a timeless narrative of love, loss, kinship and how the connections we make will almost always find a way to affect us for the rest of our lives.
George combines wit, sorrow and nostalgia into a story readers young and old will not forget... heartbreaking and real.
Setting Free the Kites is a serious but breezy work, a sad but delightful story, and just right for thumbing through at the beach this summer.
Down East Magazine
A mesmerizing and eloquent read... This is a book that takes hold of your life, so much that you forget the individuals are fictional and assume them as characters in your everyday life... Highly, highly recommended.
Heart-rending... A beautifully told, nostalgic tale about friendship, George brings to life true, strongly independent characters... An effecting, emotional read. So many excellently crafted details are packed into its pages, poignantly capturing the rapid change of emotions during adolescence
Portland Press Herald
A dandy book.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A moving novel of friendship, family, loss and reconcilation... an emotionally resonant novel
This generous, poignant novel addresses family, friendship, and dealing with catastrophic loss... a beautifully wrought work for fans of literary fiction and coming-of-age novels.
[A] touching story . . . George is masterly in his rendition of Maine landscapes and the emotional swings of adolescence.
A lovely meditation on young friendship and the harsh realities of growing up.
It's sort of early to be carving titles into the marble Best of 2017 lists already, but it would be a surprise if I didn't end the year as impressed and moved by this novel as I am right now With echoes of Stephen King's Joyland and The Body as well as John Knowles' A Separate Peace, Setting Free the Kites features unforgettable characters and a nice little twist.
New London Day
George s writing has tremendous voice, one that brings these adolescent boys to life as few others do.
Seattle Book Mama
Replete with soaring emotion. Setting Free the Kites is a coming-of-age novel driven by the forces of hope. Alex George skillfully proves that the tethers of a painful past can be cut, freeing us to rise above our circumstances if only we have fearless hearts.
SARAH McCOY, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker's Children
I think I fell a little in love with Alex George's Setting Free the Kites when I heard the beautiful title. Luckily, the book itself colorful, poignant, winning and touching does not disappoint and seduces like a spring breeze. Mr. George, please consider me one of your new and ardent admirers.
GEORGE HODGMAN, author of Bettyville
In Setting Free the Kites, Alex George has written a captivating, lyrical novel with scenes so crisp and moving you will find yourself holding your breath as page by page he renders the profundity of childhood, the primality of longing, and breaks your heart. It s an absorbing novel, with place and people crafted so fully they become real and important to the reader. A full and beautiful book.
MEGAN MAYHEW BERGMAN, author of Almost Famous Women
Alex George s brilliant new novel explores a life-changing boyhood friendship in the 70s, the way first love can whack you out of balance, the terror of an ill child and the way memories can haunt or free you. So exquisitely written, I was underlining sentences, and so engrossing, I read through the night. Funny, devastating and so human and humane, the novel is filled with characters so alive and complex, that I ached to continue on in their lives. But most important of all is this: Loss, George says, can destroy us, but it can also create us, giving possibility rapturous flight.
CAROLINE LEAVITT, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
A profoundly moving, charming, heart-breaking, heart-lifting portrait of childhood, parenthood, and friendship. I couldn t love it more. With a down-on-its-heels amusement park as the perfect backdrop, Setting Free the Kites is both elegiac and comical, a celebration of adolescent stumbling-around. This book is a treasure.
TIMOTHY SCHAFFERT, author of The Swan Gondola
Can it be that John Irving s heir is a British import, writing in the Midwest? Setting Free the Kites is as American as Garp, as heartbreaking as Owen Meany, and as hilarious as Hotel New Hampshire. Alex George proves himself a master storyteller, and with a magic all his own he has tied these elements together behind an unforgettable tale. All the pain, the joy, the absurdity of an American childhood is here, the sting of marriage, the bonds of brotherhood, brilliantly rendered in a book you will want to recommend to everyone. Family is a language we can barely understand ourselves, and this story is a brave and beautiful translation.
LYDIA NETZER, author of Shine Shine Shine