Two years ago, Jenna and Robert Rosen’s five-year-old son Bobby drowned while the three of them were vacationing in Alaska. Now something is drawing Jenna back to Wrangell, a town close to where Bobby died, and on impulse she leaves a party she and Robert are attending, drives up to Seattle, and hops on the ferry which brings her to Wrangell, Alaska. When she arrives in Wrangell, strange things start happening: she is chased by an otter-like animal, a strange dog appears by her side and begins to act as her guard dog, and people start to warn her about the menacing kushtaka. After a time, Jenna begins to believe that it is the kushtaka, the stealers of souls, who have captured her dead son’s soul, and it is up to Jenna to release him from their grasp so that she can finally be free from her grief and guilt and begin to heal herself.
Raven Stole the Moon absolutely grabbed me from the first page. While I remained engaged throughout the novel, and I really liked and rooted for Jenna, unfortunately there wasn’t much else I enjoyed about the book. That sounds strange, I know – I couldn’t put it down but I didn’t really like it – yet it’s honestly how I felt. Allow me to explain what exactly did not work for me in this novel.
My main issue with this book is the problem of being unable to suspend my disbelief. I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to take the kushtaka seriously, or if it was just a legend I was supposed to think of as a magical, fantasy type element. As the book delves deeper, though, it is clear that the legend of the kushtaka is one of the biggest aspects of the story – and I just didn’t get it. Imagine my annoyance upon reading the entire last quarter of the book and realizing that it culminates in an actual meeting with the kushtaka. It simply did not work for me. Another thing I disliked about the novel was the one-dimensionality of most of the characters. I really did like Jenna, and I absolutely believed her, but Robert was just one thing and one thing only – an unsympathetic guy who was blind to the pain his wife was in. I wanted more from him, but he wasn’t a bit complex. And Eddie was great, don’t get me wrong, but he was also pretty one-dimensional – super sweet, sort of puppy-dogish, would have done anything for Jenna, etc. Basically they were two total opposites, and real life just isn’t like that, real men have flaws and good characteristics both. So I had a difficult time with the characters.
But as I said earlier, I couldn’t put this book down. It was definitely an adventure, and although the novel is a bit on the long side, it never felt too long to me. I never felt bogged down in the story, or overwhelmed by the size of the book. Which is a good thing, because ordinarily if I wasn’t loving a book and it was this long, I would abandon it. It is definitely a testament to the writing ability of Garth Stein that he was able to keep me so engaged in a book I wasn’t really enjoying.
So, no I did not love Raven Stole the Moon. But I didn’t hate it either. My biggest issue with the book is more my issue than the fault of the novel, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt and if the novel seems interesting to you, give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised. And then let me know what you think!