Date Completed: 10/31/2015
Although not as enjoyable as his more popular book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein’s The Raven Stole the Moon spun a fantastical tale of ancient spirits that had me on edge as I sat on a couch in house that is not my own. By the end of the story, I felt like the kushtaka were watching me and if they took me, nobody would ever find out. David describes the kushtaka: “Their eyes and teeth don’t change. Usually they move around as shadows, though. You know, you think you saw something, but when you look again it’s nothing. Or you hear a footstep and think you’re hearing things. That might be a kushtaka, too.” Stein’s language was descriptive, although at times the writing was awkward, especially when there was dialogue, which may have been the feeling of Stein’s characters.
Despite its setting in Alaska, this book reminded me of the legend of La Llorona, a Mexican myth of a lady who drowned her child and then killed herself and haunts people in the night near water. Similarly to La Llorona, the main character Jenna lost her son to the ocean, where he drowned while they were visiting Jenna’s mother. The spirits, or kushtaka, have haunted the people of the town for a long time, but nobody is sure if they exist or not except the shaman, David Livingstone, and Jenna’s new friend and companion, a dog named Oscar.
Jenna unfortunately did not have very much character development. Her biggest plot point was centered around the fact that she was unsure of who she was and went on a journey to search for herself and met a lover along the way, a plotline that is overused with white female leads. I’m grateful she didn’t stay with her lover, or that would have completed the predictability of her trajectory, but staying with her asshole husband seemed to cement the societal norm that women should stay with men, even if the men are assholes who don’t understand them. In other words, it was kind of a dick move that her husband decided to hire a P.I. to stalk her and then refused to believe what she was staying and I can’t believe she stayed with him, but that’s what guys tend to expect because the patriarchy allows them to make unreasonable demands of their “property”.
Stein is the founder of a non-profit called Seattle7Writers, the most notable part of his bio. He’s the author of four novels, currently.