Review: Raven Stole the Moon

Raven Stole the Moon
By Garth Stein
HarperCollins Publishers
March 2010
464pp

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

When Jenna Rosen abandons her comfortable Seattle life to visit Wrangell, Alaska, it’s a wrenching return to her past. The hometown of her Native American grandmother, Wrangell is located near the Thunder Bay Resort, where Jenna’s young son, Bobby, disappeared two years before. His body was never recovered, and Jenna is determined to lay to rest the aching mystery of his death. But whispers of ancient legends begin to suggest a frightening new possibility about Bobby’s fate, and Jenna must sift through the beliefs of her ancestors, the Tlingit, who still tell of powerful, menacing forces at work in the Alaskan wilderness. Armed with nothing but a mother’s protective instincts, Jenna’s quest for the truth behind her son’s disappearance is about to pull her into a terrifying and life-changing abyss.

The Short of It:

Raven Stole the Moon is almost like reading two novels, side by side. There’s the everyday, here and now part of it, and then there’s the other part that centers around mysterious Native American legends and shapeshifters. At times, it’s a wild ride.

The Rest of It:

Raven Stole the Moon is not a new book for Stein. In fact, it was first published back in 1998, but after his success with The Art of Racing in the Rain, his publisher decided to release this new edition of Raven Stole the Moon. However, when I first picked it up, I believed that this was a new book so I was a tad surprised when I came upon the afterward in the book and was told that it wasn’t.

I had mixed feelings over this book.

The first half of the book worked for me. Jenna and her husband, Robert, experience what I believe, has got to be the hardest thing to get through; the death of a child. Jenna is grief-stricken, lost and confused and looking for closure. Stein does an excellent job of communicating that feeling of loss to me. Plus, I liked her a lot. She is easily someone who I could be friends with. When she arrives in Wrangell, Alaska she is sort of like flotsam in the sea. She just sort of drifts between point A and point B. When she lands into the arms of Eddie, their attraction is obvious.

As we learn more about the circumstances of her son’s death, we are introduced to the Kushtakas. The legends of the Tlingit center around shapeshifters that are part man, part otter. These Kushtakas are soul-stealers. They change shape to lure you in. Once captured,  you spend the rest of eternity as one of them. So in essence, your soul is never at rest.

The introduction to this legend intrigued me, but by the end of the book, much of it seemed far-fetched. I felt as if the novel was pulling in two different directions. Part of it wanted to stick to the relationship aspect between Jenna, her husband, and Eddie. The other part wanted to focus on the ancient legends but the two never really came together for me. I think it would have been a more powerful read, had a bit more time been spent on the ending to blend the two together.

I will say this, this novel is quite different from anything I’ve ever read. If you enjoy reading about Native American legends and can appreciate the spiritual aspect of the novel, you will enjoy this book. Also, Stein has a way with characters. Their mannerisms, their likes and dislikes, the way they use language, all come together to form real flesh and blood.

If you’re like me and want to check out Stein’s earlier works, click here for details on how to win a copy for yourself.

Source: This ARC was provided by Terra Communications.

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13 thoughts on “Review: Raven Stole the Moon”

  1. I appreciate your honest and fair review. Even though I enjoyed Raven Stole the Moon much more than you did, I can understand your feelings about it seeming to have two different stories. Personally I thought they flowed seemlessly together, but that’s just my humble opinion! 🙂

  2. I’ve come to the same conclusions you did. I loved the first half or so. The second didn’t work as well for me. I enjoyed it, but not as much as The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s definitely worth reading. Very interesting. Great review, Ti!

  3. The relationships Jenna has sound intersting, but I don’t know about the Native American spiritual stuff. I did just read The Art of Racing in the Rain and loved it, so I would be interested in reading something else by him. I may give it a try. Thanks for the review!

  4. I agree with most of your review of this book – although my favorite parts were when he went off into the Kushtaka’s mythical world!

  5. I thought it was a new book too when I accepted it for review. I thought I was (for once) in the forefront of book reviewing! Alas, I was not.

    I didn’t love this book … it was just OK. I agree that it feels like two different books at points. But I like the kushtaka parts the best.

  6. That’s too bad he doesn’t quite achieve what he tries to. I can’t say this book interests me very much, except for the mythical elements. So I’ll stick to other authors, who I know do it well. 🙂

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