Book recommendation: The Raven's Gift
I read The Raven's Gift a while ago and meant to review it here. Better late than never...
Jon Turk have written a lot of books on environmental- and earth-science books, and some on adventure travels: paddling, skiing, climbing etc, often in quite adventurous settings. In The Raven's Gift it starts with a paddling over Bering Strait (the scene for the "The Deadliest Catch" ;-), but apart from that there is little paddling in the book (a warning to the commenter who some time ago was very upset that I had the audacity to deviate from the expected paddling-and-nothing-but posts). Mostly it is about his life-changing experiences with the ancient shaman culture of the Koryaks in Kamchatka. As expected there are new-age-vibes through the pages, but Turk never gets stuck with the "travels" as Carlos Castaneda once did and his account stays believable and honest in ways that I did not find in Olga Kharitidi's book on Siberian shamans: "Entering the circle" (and in my opinion, better written).
The book becomes a fairly nuanced discussion of the often hard-to-understand cultural traditions and deep connection to the nature that we tend to see as supernatural, but that probably lies just beyond our own culturally conditioned overconfidence in rational causality.
In the last chapters, where he experiences a tragic loss, I was sometimes reminded of Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking".
Paddling books are plentiful, both good and bad, but The Raven's Gift was a reading experience I would not want to be without.
John Turk, The Ravens Gift, New York (St. Martin's Griffin) 2009.