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Book Review: The Snow Child
| The Snow Child
by Eowyn Ivey
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Suggested Retail: $24.99
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
EAN: 9780316175661Suggested Retail: $14.99
A traditional Russian fairy tale provides the basis for this captivating novel of love and loss sent in the snowy wilderness of Alaska. It is 1920 and a childless couple, Jack and Mabel, set off for Alaska to homestead as a fresh start without fully understanding the risk and hardships that Alaska winters in the wilderness will bring. The short days, constant cold and isolation prompt depression and despair but during a beautiful snowfall they playfully rejoice in the sparkling new snow and together construct a snowman. Feeling inspired, the couple carves the face of a beautiful young girl in the snow figure, dressing her in a scarf and mittens. When their snow child has disappeared the next day they are puzzled but when they observe a young blonde-haired girl dancing through the snowy trees on their property dressed in the same scarf and mittens they wonder if she if real or a magical sprite.
Soon Jack and Mabel develop intense feelings of attachment for Faina, the mysterious and free-spirited young girl who arrives to visit with them each winter and who seems so mysteriously at home in the snowy cold. During the short Alaska summers Mabel lovingly sews new winter clothing for the girl while she joyfully awaits her return with the snow and cold to come.
Over time a bit more of the snow child’s identity is revealed and she becomes more and more a daughter to the couple, still unsure of whether they can believe that she is fully real or a magical spell that has taken form to express their deepest hopes and desires. How can it be that this beautifully delicate child knows better than they how to survive in the unforgiving winter landscape?
Difficulties posed by weather and hardship soon lessen Mabel and Jack’s isolation by necessity and illustrate the importance of community and friendship for survival. However, the Russian fairy tale Mable uncovers which so closely parallels their experience with Faina has a several tragically sad potential endings. She and Jack hope against hope that their love for Faina will have a happier resolution as they faithfully anticipate her return to their homestead each year when winter arrives.
“The Snow Child” is Eowyn Ivey’s first novel and it is beautifully written with spare, lyrical prose that never over-states. The tale magically conveys beauty of place and intensity of feeling while leaving plenty of room for the reader’s emotional involvement and wonder at the tale’s starkly beautiful story. It’s the most wonderful and unusual book I’ve read for a while. I highly recommend it!
Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. This is her first novel.