The Raven’s Gift is a thrilling Alaskan story. It is authored by Don Reardon who hails from Alaska. The tone and setting used in the book depict a rich adventurous history of the author. He was raised in the Southwestern part of Alaska where he dwelled among the Yup’ik Eskimo and adopted their culture. Today, he still lives in a mountain community in Bear Valley Alaska. Don Reardon is highly respected in Alaska and is an Associate Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, as well as the president of 49 Alaska Writers board of directors. The novel is a contrasting account of both happy/ beautiful times as well as grueling/ dangerous moments. Similarly, the characters also have such contrasting characteristics.
The setting of the book is a post-apocalyptic Alaska. The novel utilizes juxtaposition of characters and events to make the story thrilling. The main character, John, is accompanied by his wife Ann Morgan on a journey to rural Alaska (near Kuskokwim River in western Alaska) where they make a living out of tutoring. The shift is exciting to the couple as they hope to connect with the Alaskan ancestry of John. The stay in rural Alaska is, however, not going to be easy for them. Rural Alaska had no such facilities as running water, grocery stores found locally, indoor toilet, reliable medical workers, local pharmacy or even good weather conditions. The story reveals that they had to pass many miles to fetch water or get groceries.
A drastic twist in the mood of the narration and the speed of events begin when a deadly epidemic hits the Alaskan village where John and Ann live. The situation is worsened by the fact that the village is isolated. Ann consequently dies since they cannot access any help. The disease hits hard on the village and John’s only option is to escape, and he takes a journey into the wilderness. Compassion is demonstrated when John comes across a blind girl in the forest and rescues her. It is the first case of unusual compassion and empathy in the story. In addition, later, he comes across an old woman whom he rescues too. Such attitude is contrasted to a hunter who comes across the three survivors of the epidemic and intends to kill them. Notably, the hunter is a contrast to John; he is cannibalistic. However, the hunter is only the first of the dangers that survivors of the epidemic come across as they seek safety in the forest. The environment is definitely not in their favor and the hope of survival in the end is dim. Surprisingly, the blind woman and the old woman teach John many things that he does not know, for example, the navigation of the forest terrain. The final survival of the trio is a sigh of relief to the reader.
Three women are featured in the story: Ann Morgan, the blind girl and the old woman. Each of them plays a particular role in the development of the plot as well as various themes in the story. Ann Morgan believes in her husband John and takes a journey to his rural backyard. She is of good help to the main character until she succumbs to the epidemic. She is the first demonstration of the vulnerability of women during the times of crisis such as war and disease. The blind girl and the old woman seek John’s protection in the forest. They are vulnerable and afraid without him but are useful in offering constructive guidance in navigating the forest. This contrast helps to bring out the usefulness and intelligence of women in times of crisis; they may be weak and vulnerable but wield useful insights within.
It should be noted that the thinking pattern (psychology) of the three women is generally the same. All of them take shelter in the man among them. Ann feels safe and confident with her husband while the blind girl and the old woman feel protected under the leadership of John. Such attitude illustrates the position of men and women in the Alaskan tradition. Women are also insightful. The story highlights instances where the blind girl and the old woman could ‘see’ things that John could not. The old woman, for instance, warns John not to go and pick provisions from the school as it is likely to be a trap, and it turns out to be true. He admits learning a lot from the ladies about terrain navigation.
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Three main themes are exemplified in the narration: destitution, compassion, and terror. It is worth noting that the book unfolds through the contrast of destitution and despair that open the story while compassion and terror reign throughout the rest of the narration. Destitution refers to a situation of extreme poverty or need that threatens life if not addressed. John and Ann migrate to an isolated village where basic amenities such as clean water, electricity and groceries are lacking. They have to fetch them from afar. When the epidemic strikes, the fact that the village is so isolated from the rest of the country virtually dooms all its occupants to death. This situation causes despair in the occupants of the village as they must seek a way to survive. Disease kills most of the residents of the village, including John’s wife, Ann Morgan. The villagers hope to get help, but they have no money to access any help and the roads leading to the settlement are impassable. It is the destitution that leads John out of the village into the wilderness in search of a possible cure for the disease.