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Review: Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

It has been two years since 5 year-old Bobby Rosen disappeared into the cold waters of Thunder Bay near Wrangell, Alaska. Since the tragic accident his mother, Jenna, has not been able to move on with her life. She tried alcohol, pills, psychologists, and psychiatrists yet still she deeply mourns her child. Impulsively, Jenna decides to return to Alaska and attempt to slay the demons that have haunted her since Bobby’s death.

The demons she finds are directly tied to her Tlingit Indian heritage. The kushtaka. According to legend, Raven gave the kushtaka the power to watch over the woods and the seas in order to rescue lost souls on the verge of death and convert them to kushtaka. Once converted, the soul cannot pass to the Land of Dead Souls. The soul is forever trapped as kushtaka. Jenna realizes that Bobby wasn’t dead. He had not drowned. He was with the kushtaka. It is up to her to rescue him.

Garth Stein weaves an intricate tale of grief, redemption, mystery, and legend. He has created characters that are vivid and believable. The spine-tingling supernatural elements of the story are based on Tlingit folklore. In fact, more than once during some of the frightening parts, I had to shut the book, take a short break, and later return to the story. The book on our shelves is a re-release of the 1998 edition of Raven Stole the Moon, Stein’s first novel. In the afterword, Stein says that he made a few changes, such as omitting some of the vulgarities. He writes, “I don’t know why, when I was 31, I found cursing such a crucial form of expression.” Also, he made the decision to retain the innocence of the pre-digital era and not update the technology.

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