by Garth Stein
Genre: Northwest fiction
Paperback: 445 pages
Description from the amazon:
In this "moving...unpredictable and absorbing debut" (Publishers Weekly), Garth Stein brilliantly invokes his Native American heritage and its folklore to create an electrifying supernatural thriller.
When Jenna Rosen abandons her comfortable Seattle life to revisit Wrangell, Alaska, it's a wrenching return to her past. Long ago the home of her Native American grandmother, Wrangell is located near the Thunder Bay resort where Jenna's young son, Bobby, drowned two years before. There, determined to lay to rest the aching mystery of his death, she hears whispers of Tlingit legends that tell of powerful, menacing forces -- and discovers a frightening new possibility about Bobby's fate.
Warned by a practicing shaman against disturbing the legendary kushtaka -- soul-stealing predators that stalk the netherworld between land and sea, the living and the dead -- Jenna turns to Eddie, a local fisherman, to help her separate fact from myth. But she can't deny her protective motherly instincts, and Jenna's quest for the truth about her son -- and the strength of her beliefs -- is about to pull her into a terrifying, life-changing abyss....
I read Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein and enjoyed it immensely. It pulled me right in and took me on a ride to the end. There was a jarring pothole along the way that took away from the experience for me however.
The characters in Raven Stole the Moon are compelling in their human frailty and perfidy. The main character is Jenna, who is married to Robert. They are young, she is pretty, he is successful and they live in Seattle. They had a son who died and the story begins on the second anniversary of his death. The death of the son is what the story is about. We quickly move on to Alaska and the ancestral lands of the Tlingit. There we meet other characters: a shaman for hire; a construction project manager; a private investigator’s muscle man; a dog; a disabled fisherman; Raven; Land Otter. . .
Raven is a trickster god. Like Loki and Anansi he is powerful. He occupies a world where time is not linear. It is a world where gods and men interact out of time and place. Raven comes from a mythopoeic tradition that has been documented by scholars such as Robert Bringhurst and first Americans such as Bill Reid. The documentation is an incomplete and painful goodbye to a tradition which has seen the last the mythspeakers die. With the mythspeakers gone, all that is left to us is a sterile scholarly view of the traditions.
Raven Stole the Moon is a novel that takes place in and touches on the traditions and themes of the Pacific Northwest. As noted in the book, there were two major tribes along the northwest coast, the Haida and the Tlingit. An important god amongst these people is Raven. Raven is, was and always will be. He is responsible for humans emerging from the clam shell. His trickery and thievery oftentimes inadvertently benefits mankind. He prominently occupies a pantheon that includes bear, eagle, killer whale, and many others including otter. Raven was rescued from drowning by Land Otter, who was rewarded with powers of his own. As stated by the shaman in this story, and perfectly consistent with all mythopoeic traditions, Land Otter is neither good nor evil.
At some point though, Land Otter becomes evil. Not only that, but he becomes a part of our material world, living in linear time and becoming highly anthropomorphized. This is where I almost abandoned the book. A hoard of evil otters led by the Land Otter shaman (a different shaman then the one for hire) running around in an otter den trying to convert Jenna into one of them. That part of the book -- a very important part -- was like pulp science fiction writing rather than the carefully crafted prose that made up the rest.
Aside from that, the rest of the book is wonderful reading. The characters are seldom one-dimensional. The author stated in the afterward that in revising this book from one that was published in 1998, eliminated much of the vulgar language. There is a little gratuitous violence that works itself into the story in the form of the thoroughly one-dimensional private investigator muscle man, but it works well enough. And the ending is . . . well, something you can form your own opinion about.
*** Blogosphere giveaways ***
I'm not ready to give up my copy just yet, because I want to read it too. But here are some fellow bloggers who are giving it away.
at Suko's Notebook -ends May 17, 2010
Win the book
at iron inklings
at Freda's Voice -ends May 14, 2010
* Special thanks to the hubby for this guest post.
* This book was won from a contest.
Thanks to Gina of Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Courtesy of Terra Communications