Raven Stole the Moon

Two years after the accidental drowning of her son Bobby, Jenna Rosen still blames herself, even though she realizes that she was powerless to help him. Battling depression, addiction, and suicidal thoughts, she ultimately abandons her indifferent husband Robert and their life in Seattle to return to her grandmother’s home in Wrangell, Alaska, near the scene of the accident. Even as Robert attempts to locate her, Jenna searches for answers that will help her to understand and be at peace with her son’s death.

A chance encounter on the ferry to Wrangell introduces her to the legend of the kushtaka, fearsome spirits with the power to change shape and to steal human souls. After she encounters a threatening figure in the forest, Jenna is adopted in turn by Oscar, the dog that becomes her spirit guide, a likeable young fisherman named Eddie, and a Tlingit shaman who helps her to discover the truth about the past.

Garth Stein, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, has some Tlingit blood in his veins and makes good use of that tradition to enhance his story. He clearly knows how to handle suspense and the intricacies of plot. Unfortunately he is not as skilled in his portrayal of characters, most of whom tend to be stereotyped. The figure of Robert, the bereaved father and deserted husband, remains thoroughly unsympathetic until the very end. The novel suffers from too many references to film and television, especially old cartoons, and the dialogue is largely unconvincing. Nevertheless, RAVEN STOLE THE MOON provides an entertaining escape, and Stein shows promise in his new art.