I don’t know why it sometimes takes me so long to listen to smart people. For months, some of the most critical readers I know have recommended The Raven’s Gift by fellow Alaskan author Don Rearden. I’ve been busy with a lot of reading and writing of my own, but that isn’t all the kept me from it.
In all honesty, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. Don seems like a really nice guy, with a young family and a desire to do good in the world. He’s always supporting great causes. It seemed easier to just not read his book, than to read it and not like it.
I needn’t have worried. The book is fantastic, one of the best books about Alaska I have ever read. It calls to mind Cormac McCarthy and Stephen King, but at the same time it is all its own.
The Raven’s Gift is the story of a couple teaching in a remote Alaskan village when a epidemic sweeps through. People are dying in isolation, and others descending into savage violence. It is a survival story and an edge-of-the-seat thriller.
But what makes it unique is its depth. I frantically read from one page to the next, driven by that delicious desire to know what is going to happen next. Even through all the action and drama, I was moved and educated by the description of Alaska Native culture and life in a Bush village. It’s here that Don makes some brave, compassionate, and important observations.
It is clear, too, that not only is Don a good writer, but he has the knowledge and experience to write this book. Few other people would.
One small caveat — The Raven’s Gift is published by Penguin Canada, and so can be a little difficult to track down here in the U.S. But talk to your local bookseller to see if they can special order it for you, or order it through Fireside Books and they’ll ship it to you. And campaign U.S. publishers to pick up this fabulous book.
I recently saw another blogger pairing books, like one would with wines and foods. I loved the idea. So I would like to pair The Raven’s Gift with two of my other favorite Alaska titles — Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner and Two Old Women by Velma Wallis. These three books combined are devastating, amazing, and important.