My rating: 3 stars
On the surface, Jenna Rosen has it all: a husband who loves her, a comfortable life in Seattle, and good looks. But Jenna is troubled; it shows in her excessive drinking, Valium addiction, depression and the increasing discord in her marriage. But her problems can all be traced back to the loss of her son Bobby, who drowned during a family vacation in Alaska two years ago. Jenna blames herself for Bobby’s death and cannot get past it. Yet her husband Robert seems to have been able to put the past to rest. One night at a party, Jenna gets in Robert’s car and keeps on driving. Her trip leads her to Bellingham, WA, where she impulsively boards the ferry that will take her to Wrangell, Alaska—a small town where her Native American grandmother lived and close to the Thunder Bay Resort where Bobby died.
Once in Wrangell, things happen that lead her to believe that something is calling her to discover the truth about Bobby’s death. Her grandmother’s Tlingit ancestry begins to manifest itself in strange and frightening ways. As Jenna begins to explore the Tlingit legends of the kushtaka, she begins to believe that Bobby’s death was no accident. Determined to find the truth, Jenna embarks on a quest to discover what really happened at Thunder Bay. The result is a terrifying but liberating journey into the heart of the Alaska wilderness and the ancient legends of the Tlingits.
Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t a new book by Garth Stein, author of the best-selling Art of Racing in the Rain (which is on my TBR list for later this year). Rather, this is a rerelease of his first novel, which was published in 1998. (Note to authors: If your first book is not very successful, keep on trying. You may score later on and then get a rerelease for your earlier books!) Raven Stole the Moon has been out of print for several years, but is being rereleased on March 9. Remember how I told you I was reading a mystery book that I couldn’t talk about? This was it!
Anyway, on to my thoughts about the book. I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I enjoy stories of ancient legends coming to life in our modern world, and I thought the sections dealing with the kushtaka were disturbing and frightening at times. (Let me tell you, after reading this book, I won’t look at otters quite the same way again!) On the other hand, I had some issues with the tone and writing in the book. In many ways, the book is told in a very plain, straightforward way: She did this. Then she did that. He reacted this way. Then the author mixes in some stream-of-consciousness stuff that I found a bit jarring. Here is a small example:
She got off the freeway in Bellingham feeling tired and hungry. She pulled into a gas station to get some fuel for the Machine, and she picked up some Corn Nuts and a Coke—fuel for herself. The trip suddenly had the feeling of an all-night drive. Standing under a canopy of fluorescent bulbs. Artificial sunlight. Electrified reality. Everyone would be asleep if they weren’t plugged in.
My other quibble was that I thought the emotional lives of characters could have been better developed. We know Jenna is devastated by the loss of her son because the author tells us, but I never really felt it from Jenna herself. For me, this kept the book from being more than a competently told story with some supernatural elements. I think with a little more work and polishing, this book could have been something special. However, in the end, I think it falls shy of the mark.
My Final Recommendation
If you enjoy books with supernatural elements related to Native American culture, this would be a good read for you. The Tlingit legends and story line were the most compelling part of the story for me, and the descriptions of the kushtaka were interesting and a bit frightening. Although the writing is competent and the story moves along quickly, I didn’t think it was unforgettable or out of the ordinary. For this reason, I’m giving it 3 stars. However, that is just one girl’s opinion! I suspect you’ll be seeing a torrent of other reviews about this book in the coming week so check out what other bloggers thought about it using the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Also, if you fell in love with Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain (and so many of you seem to have done that!), you may want to check out this book. I know that when I fall in a love with a book, I always like to explore the author’s other writings as well.
The Whys and Wheres: A big thank you to Terra Communications for my review copy. They graciously offered me the opportunity to be a part of promoting this rerelease.
Hey … you know that if you click on the link above and buy this book, I might get a few cents. I think I’m supposed to let you know that. No obligation or anything. But if my review made you want to buy the book, why not help me out? All proceeds go to support this blog. Not there are a lot of proceeds, by the way. If I’m lucky, I might eventually get enough to pay the postage for one of the giveaways I’m always having.