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Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

Garth Stein’s Raven Stole the Moon was originally printed in 1998, but was recently republished by Harper following Stein’s success with The Art of Racing in the Rain (my review). The Tlingit legend — including that of Raven — that becomes Jenna Rosen’s life is absorbing, blurring the lines of reality and folklore.  Jenna’s life fell apart upon the death of her son in an accident, and she spirals out of control, seeing psychiatrists and taking addictive pharmacological substances.  After emerging from a drug haze, she and her husband Robert go through the motions until Jenna makes a definitive move to change her life.

“The two options were mutually exclusive.  There was no middle ground.  Maybe I’m a little crazy and there are some spirits.  No.  It was either/or.  And Jenna was determined to find out which.”  (Page 199)

Set in the 1990s in Alaska and Washington State where it’s about “recapturing the glory of the eighties at a discount,” Stein crafts a surreal tale where reality blends with the past, the present, and folklore turning men into beasts and soul robbers and generating three dimensional characters ready to deal with the unknown and irreparable grief.

“Digging deep down into the crust of the earth, pumping black goo up to the surface, cooking it in aluminum containers so it can be used in a BMW.  The evolution of Man smells like gasoline.”  (Page 35)

Despite the tragedy in these pages, readers are on the edge of their seats as they ride with Jenna through the Alaskan wilderness to unravel the mystery behind her son’s death and uncover her heritage as a descendant of the Tlingit tribe.  Along the way, Jenna is joined by a lonely young man and a wild dog, while being pursued by a private investigator hired by her husband to find her.  Just as Jenna relaxes, the unknown creeps up on her alongside the harsh reality of the life she left behind, which all threatens to impinge on her life suspended in limbo.

Stein not only create dynamic characters; Dr. David Livingstone, the shaman who is consulted during the construction of Thunder Bay, resembles the original from Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness who was based upon a real missionary and explorer of Africa.  Stein’s Livingstone undergoes a transformation to take on the visage of evil, but he is also a presence that hovers over the story, like Conrad’s character.

Readers will be surprised by how much is packed into Raven Stole the Moon and by how quickly the story unravels and carries them along down river with Jenna and her compatriots.  The only possible nit-picky thing to point out is that the time line gets a bit muddled when jumping between the story of how Thunder Bay came to be and Jenna’s current journey, which could have been rectified by revealing the story of Thunder Bay as Jenna makes her way through the wilderness.  However, that is a minor complaint in an otherwise captivating, suspenseful story that readers will be hard pressed to forget when the final page is turned.

This is my 10th book for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

Raven Stole the Moon and Garth Stein

Sorry for all the posts today, but there is a lot going on these days on the blog.

Garth Stein is a phenomenal speaker and writer, and since my review of The Art of Racing in the Rain, my interview with him for the D.C. Literature Examiner, and my visit with him at a recent reading at The Writer’s Center, he’s republished Raven Stole the Moon.

Book synopsis:

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.

Before we get to the giveaway, I wanted to share with you some great video interviews with Garth Stein and Bill Kenower of Author Magazine:

You can visit Garth Stein’s YouTube channel.

Giveaway Details; I have one red, Raven umbrella, like the one on the cover of Raven Stole the Moon for US/Canada reader:

1.  Leave a comment about what interested you in these interview segments with Garth Stein.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or spread the word about the giveaway and leave me a link.

3.  Become a Facebook fan or subscriber of the blog for another entry.

Deadline is May 17, 2010 at 11:59PM EST.