Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

A few weeks ago Audible sent me a teaser email announcing the audible release of Garth Stein's first two books (prior to "The Art of Racing in the Rain"). I immedieatly downloaded "How Evan Broke His Head (and other Secrets)" and loved it - finding it every bit as enjoyable as The Art of Racing in the Rain. So now onto "Raven Stole the Moon" (originally published in hardcover by Atria -  April 1st, 1998).

I initially started Raven Stole the Moon on my way home from TMAC - right after (on the same trip) finishing "How Evan Broke his Head". My next few listening sessions were somewhat fragmented, leaving me about 90 minutes into the audiobook without having really gotten into the story. I almost moved onto another book - I downloaded two more titles to my Garmin in preparation for my trip to Syracuse but for some reason, when I got into the van I decided to give Raven Stole the Moon one more try....and by the time I hit the interstate I was hooked.
I'm impressed how different Garth Stein's books are - all three are distinctly original works. Each new plot element and character are unique. Evan is not Enzo; Bobby is not Zoe; etc. 

I think what threw me in those initial 90 minutes were the context shifts and my breaks in listening. Contextually the story moves from present day, two years ago, present day, 20 years ago - it really required a bit of concentration (and continuity) to get to the part of the novel where the characters had been explained sufficiently so their stories could begin.

Jenna and Robert lost their son in a tragic accident while on vacation in Alaska; Jenna is one-quarter Clinket (Alaskan tribe) - her grandmother lived and died just a few miles away from the place where Bobby died. Jenna in Seattle is spiritually called to Rangal Alaska - her grandmother's abandoned home and the spirits that live there. We are introduced to Raven - Raven the son of "god" (sort of) born from immaculate conception - a magical spirit who steals the moon and the starts. His mother is saved by otters; to repay them he grants the otter some of his powers - creating the kushtaka. Otters able to transform into any shape they desire - assuming human form - but they can't change their eyes or their teeth - that's how you know.

From Wiki:
Kushtaka are mythical creatures found in the stories of the Tlingit and Tsimshian Indians of Southeastern Alaska. Loosely translated, kushtaka means, "land otter man". They are similar to the Nat'ina of the Dan'aina Indians of South Central Alaska, and the Urayuli of the Eskimos in Northern Alaska. Physically, kushtaka are shape-shifters capable of assuming either human form or the form of an otter. In some accounts, a kushtaka is able to assume the form of any species of otter; in others, only one. Accounts of their behaviour seem to conflict with one another. In some stories, kushtaka are cruel creatures who take delight in tricking poor Tlingit sailors to their deaths. In others, they are friendly and helpful, frequently saving the lost from death by freezing. In many stories, the kushtaka save the lost individual by distracting them with curiously otter-like illusions of their family and friends as they transform their subject into a fellow kushtaka, thus allowing him to survive in the cold. Naturally, this is counted a mixed blessing. However, kushtaka legends are not always pleasant. In some legends it is said the kushtaka will imitate the cries of a baby or the screams of a woman to lure victims to the river. Once there, the kushtaka either kills the person and tears them to shreds or will turn them into another kushtaka.
Legends have it kushtaka can be warded off through copper, urine, and in some stories fire. Since the kushtaka mainly preys on small children, it has been thought by some that it was used by Tlingit mothers to keep their children from wandering close to the ocean by themselves.

Jenna in Alaska, the dog that saves her in the woods, Eddie a fisherman sidelined by a traumatic injury, the jealous husband who hires an investigator to find Jenna. David Livingstone a shamen who has experienced abduction by kushtaka. Have I piqued your interest yet? The story is delightful - it was really hard to pull into the driveway after my 5 hour drive from Syracuse and leave the last 45 minutes of Raven Stole the Moon for another trip...REALLY hard. Now part of me is a little sad...I've now caught up on all of Mr. Stein's works and I want more!

"Raven Stole the Moon" was written by Garth Stein and published in hardcover April 1st, 1998.  "Raven Stole the Moon" was published in audio format by Audible, Inc.and was released on September 21st, 2010. The audiobook was narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck. "Raven Stole the Moon" is unabridged and has a run-time of 12 hours and 56 minutes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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