Jenna lost her son, Bobby, in a tragic drowning while on a business-related vacation with her family at a soon-to-be-opened wilderness lodge. Two years later at home with her husband Robert in Seattle, Jenna has yet to recover. She's seen numerous psychiatrists, but has yet to come to terms with Bobby's death and the changes their loss made to their marriage. After a fight at yet another business related event, Jenna takes off in Robert's car. At first she just wants to get home. In the end, she just keeps driving, running away from Robert by default. Eventually, she ends up headed on the ferry to Alaska, the home of her Tlingit grandmother and the place where Bobby died. Can returning to the source of so much pain in her life help her move forward, or will it send her further into depression and despair?
The first half of this novel had all the makings of a great episode of "The X Files." After Jenna lands in Alaska after leaving Robert, she has the most creepy experiences. Because she doesn't completely trust her sanity, she's not sure if she believes what she sees. What she may have experienced is creepy and kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved the potential of kushtaka, the otter people gifted with the ability to shift their shape and "convert" souls. When Jenna wonders if the kushtaka are real and if they may have some connection to the death of her son, I could just imagine Mulder and Scully investigating and having a field day with all the possibilities. During that first half, I was in heaven. I felt that I could relate to Jenna and I wanted her to find her way to where ever it was that she needed to go.
The second half of the novel didn't work as well for me. I grew impatient with Jenna and her attitude about anyone other than herself. The story became much less suspenseful because it featured Robert and his attempts to find Jenna more prominently. This weighted the novel down and was distracting. I wanted the novel to be about Jenna and her discoveries. I wasn't so much concerned about Robert. It's not that he didn't matter, but I wish there could have been more a more concise way to bring him back into the story without the play by play. Robert also put enough normalcy and reality back into the story that when the kushtaka arc built back up, I missed it. I was no longer prepared for it. Had I recognized it immediately, the end of this novel really would have packed a punch.
My Final Thoughts
I didn't like this novel as much as The Art of Racing in the Rain. However, Raven Stole the Moon was more challenging and in some ways more interesting. I enjoyed the Alaskan setting, history, and spirituality that were infused throughout. I liked that Jenna and Robert were a mess and were prone to making rotten decisions when under stress. It made them human. The highlight for me was the section where Jenna relives her last moments with Bobby. They were incredibly heartbreaking and powerful. Had Stein maintained the same pacing and level of suspense consistently throughout, this novel would have been absolutely incredible.