Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein
originally published 1998
Synopsis from publisher:
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 was actually pretty nervous about this book - not too far in, it took a decided turn toward magical realism. You may or may not know this, but magical realism and I do NOT get along. I consistently struggle with being able to become fully immersed in these types of stories, and often find them a chore to get through.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find myself becoming quickly engrossed in this tale of magic and tragedy in a small Alaskan town. I found the sections with David, the shaman, to be particularly powerful, and found his tales of Tlingit mythology to be fascinating. Stein does a masterful job of bringing the spirits and lore of the kushtaka to life in the pages of his story, and it completely worked for me, in ways that I would have never suspected.
It did take me a little while to really connect with the characters - especially Jenna, although I suspect this was more a result of the narrative style (short, choppy sentences which seemed somewhat abrupt in the initial sections about Jenna) - and once Jenna got to Alaska and the story picked up, I became so involved that this was no longer an issue.
And it is a great story - not only the fascinating pieces of native Tlingit lore, but the themes of love and loss and forgiveness were perfectly woven together to make for a completely compelling read. I definitely enjoyed it - if you were a fan of Stein's recent mega-hit, The Art of Racing in the Rain, this is a must-read!Finished: 3/5/09
Source: review copy from Terra Communications - thank you!