Jenna and her husband Robert were living the American dream in Seattle, complete with their 5-year-old son, Bobby, a fancy BMW, and Robert’s money-making job as a real estate developer. Then Bobby tragically drowned on a trip to Alaska. Two years later, on the anniversary of his death, Jenna impulsively leaves Robert and their deteriorated marriage at a party and drives north. She boards a ferry to Alaska, drawn to her mother’s hometown, close to where Bobby died. Concurrently, a new resort is slated to be built near the bay where Bobby drowned. A shaman is hired to rid the area of bad spirits from the Tlingit (sounds like “Clinket”) Native American tribe that once lived there. Not surprisingly the two stories intertwine, as Jenna, who herself is a quarter Tlingit, delves deeper into the tribe’s culture, and begins to believe that their spirits might hold the answers she’s been searching for in her son’s death.
Jennifer Van Dyck’s formal, yet breathy enunciation of words adds an ethereal quality to her story-telling — it works perfectly for the spiritual nature of this novel. Even when the novel relies on the rare cliché, Van Dyck is able to make it sound fresh and interesting. She’s at her best when enacting Jenna’s character, but is able to put on a gruffer voice for male characters that are suitably believable. Her pauses between the alternating story lines are effective and keep the two from getting confused, otherwise the steady pace of her speech has a soothing nature.
A novel that eloquently juxtaposes American greed with Native American spirituality, Raven Stole the Moon is ultimately about getting through grief, searching for closure, and tapping into the unknowns that are the center of every human experience. —Colleen Oakley