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Freebird (Graywolf Press)
The Singers are an all-American family, and they’re about to lose everything. Anne, who works in the Los Angeles Office of Sustainability, finds herself caught in a shady business deal for recycling wastewater. Her teenage son, Aaron, can’t decide between college and a road trip to Mexico, but his plans are derailed by Singer patriarch Grandpa Sam, whose untold experience of the Holocaust is revealed when he enlists Aaron's help in retrieving some gold coins from a safe-deposit box in Oakland.
Anne’s brother, Ben, a former Navy SEAL, returns from Afghanistan disillusioned and struggling with PTSD, and starts down a path toward a radical act of violence—one that changes the family’s course forever.
In Freebird, the narratives converge and expand as Oregon Book Award-winner Jon Raymond explores political, environmental, and ethical dilemmas particular to our contemporary moment and reveals how the fates of our families are irrevocably tied to the currents of history.
Praise for Freebird
“Raymond rotates between Anne’s, Ben’s and Aaron’s points of view, his gallows humor and psychological acuity informing the action of every character. . . . His descriptive powers. . . pull you into a kind of sensuous ambiguity that’s as seductive for the reader as it is for his characters. . . . The biggest impression the book leaves is of a novelist reaching the height of his powers.”—The Oregonian
“The arrival of Freebird requires that you set aside all New Year plans and dive in without delay. . . . A darkly relatable amorality tale from a skilled storyteller.”—Portland Monthly
“An original, provocative, and intriguing story about a California family facing individual personal crises. . . . This is a powerful and tender family drama.”—Publishers Weekly
“Freebird is such a timely book, considering the current deep divisions between right and left. A new classic for the collapsing political landscape of America.”—Kim Gordon, author of Girl in a Band
“Jon Raymond’s wonderful new book Freebird poetically wrestles with the big and the small: how globalization and international conflicts reconcile with the personal; how the amorality of war affects individual psyches; how impulsive post adolescence mirrors impulsive old age. And the undercurrent of this increasingly suspenseful story is a fascinating discussion of environmental mutilation, at once a tangle of benign bureaucracy and calculated avarice, which Raymond tackles with equal parts sensitivity and expertise.”—Jesse Eisenberg, author of Bream Gives Me Hiccups
“Freebird is an intelligent and absorbing multi-generational story of an American family, written with great sensitivity, insight, and verve.”—Patrick deWitt
“Beautifully written, precisely observed, and morally engaged. In the Singer family, Jon Raymond has composed a kind of generational fugue on the theme of how to do some good in a grim world—how to fight back against evil without compounding that evil.”—Jonathan Dee, author of A Thousand Pardons
“No one writes sentences so graceful and characters so achingly real as Jon Raymond. Sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious, oftentimes at the same moment, Freebird is the gripping story of a dysfunctional family through which we better understand these dysfunctional times.”—Benjamin Percy, author of Thrill Me
“In Freebird, Raymond serves up a stellar depiction of the frustrations, decisions, and everyday complications of humanity in draught-ridden, politically fraught 21st-century California. Come for the wild ride and unpredictable plot, and stay for the gripping characters and remarkable depth!”—Annie Harvieux, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN
“Freebird by John Raymond is a character driven story of a dysfunctional family that somehow makes it through the hard times. Grandpa Sam is such an endearing character, who's own past is checkered with immense suffering that inevitably shapes his family's present. It was a supremelyen joyable read.”—Sue Zumberge, SubText Books, St. Paul, MN
“A multi-generational story that is a road-trip novel, an ecological disaster drama, and a harrowing post-Iraq War PTSD portrait all rolled into one highly readable, gorgeously-written book. Each character that passes through Freebird has enough charm and life-force to command his or her own novel. Lucky for us, Jon Raymond's chosen to tell this story over the shoulder of three of his strongest characters, each of whom has to reconcile feelings of love (romantic and familial) with the brutal realities of (to crib the title of a song Aaron Singer would likely appreciate) life during wartime. Despite its dark turns, Freebird is a book filled with hope for its characters, as well as love for the real world (ours) it ably attempts to recreate and offer respite from.”—John Francisconi, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
“Family drama, mystical road trips, and a military thriller collide in Jon Raymond's intimate portrayal of a Los Angeles family whose foundation is rapidly disintegrating. Written with empathy and intelligence in equal measure, Raymond's characters are all forced to confront their most deeply-held beliefs head-on and truly find what success means in modern America.”—Isaac S., Politics & Prose, Washington, DC
Jon Raymond is the author of two novels, Rain Dragon and The Half-Life, and the short-story collection Livability. His work has appeared in Tin House, the Village Voice, Bookforum, and other places. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Photo by Michael Palmier