Summary: From the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain comes an extraordinary tale of grief, devotion, redemption, and timeless mystery.
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. -- Harper
When I found out that Garth Stein had a "new" book out called RAVEN STOLE THE MOON, I jumped at the chance to read it. I absolutely loved THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN (you can read my review here), and I have been anxiously awaiting his "next" novel. You might be wondering why I'm using all of the quotation marks -- it's because RAVEN STOLE THE MOON is actually a re-release of an out-of-print book that Mr. Stein wrote over 13 years ago. Since I enjoyed THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN so much, I admit that I had very high expectations for this novel.
Unfortunately, I didn't find RAVEN STOLE THE MOON to be as captivating as THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. That's not to say that the book didn't have some merits. I'm just saying that it wasn't as good to me. It took me quite awhile to really get into the story and the characters, and I'd go so far as to say that I found the first half of this book to be pretty slow. I understand that Mr. Stein was setting up the background of the story and the characters, but I just wish he had done it in less words. In fact, I think the book would have been much better had it been about 100 pages shorter (it was almost 450 pages.)
And that leads me to my second problem with this novel -- I just didn't feel anything towards the main character Jenna. I so wanted to relate to her and feel her pain for losing her child, and I did to a certain extent. I just couldn't make that jump to really relating to her. I really wanted something more from Jenna. I guess I didn't feel as if her character was developed enough for me. Now, I know that I don't have to love the characters to appreciate the book; however, it certainly makes it easier sometimes!
Having said all this, I don't want you to think that I didn't like this book because there were parts of it that were really good (and I've seen quite a few very positive reviews.) I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the unique premise of this book, and I liked how the author even incorporated some supernatural aspects into the story. I also was fascinated by the beliefs of the Tlingit, and I truly thought Mr. Stein did a great job of explaining the Tlingit culture. In addition, I thought his descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness were wonderful.
I did enjoy the second half of the book much more than the first. I actually felt as if the story really took off and I did get caught up in Jenna's life. I was surprised (in a good way) with how much the supernatural/myth storyline came to the forefront. And the book did have a very exciting and action-packed conclusion. I felt satisfied with how the book ended (even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted.)
One thing that did stand out for me when reading RAVEN STOLE THE MOON was that the book did seem dated. I'm not going to go so far as to say that it got in the way of my appreciation of the story. It's just that I found it odd that Jenna couldn't just pick up her cell phone and call people -- she had to look for a pay phone. I guess that really tells you how much I take technology for granted in today's society (and I can't believe that 13 years ago, cell phones weren't part of our lives.) I was a little bit surprised that Mr. Stein and the publisher didn't update the novel to make it more current, but then I read his author's note in the back of the book and understood his reasons for not making the changes.
I do think RAVEN STOLE THE MOON would work for a lot of book clubs. There is definitely a huge amount of topics to discuss including marriage, guilt, redemption, grieving, motherhood, addiction, depression, etc. In addition, I'm sure many clubs will love to explore the supernatural aspect of the story as well as the culture and beliefs of the Tlingits. I couldn't find a on-line reading guide at this time, but I'm sure one will be available in the near future. I will link to it when it comes out.
Thanks to Terra Communications for sending me a review copy of this novel.
And because I know a lot of you are dying to read this book, I am so excited to announce that I have one copy of RAVEN STOLE THE MOON to giveaway courtesy of Terra Communications! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with a valid email address telling me if you've ever read a Garth Stein book! This giveaway will be open until Sunday, March 21st at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you in the U.S and Canada only. Good luck!