Title: The Snow Child
Author: Eowyn Ivey
Release Date: February 1, 2012
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The year is 1920, and Jack and Mabel are trying their best to homestead in Alaska. Mabel craved solitude after facing her inability to have children, and now they’re enduring backbreaking conditions trying to eke out a living in the new territory. In an uncharacteristic fit of whimsy, Jack and Mabel build a child out of snow behind their house. The very next day, a young girl appears out of nowhere and seems to be the answer to Mabel’s dearest wishes.
The Snow Child takes a Russian fairy tale and turns it on its head. There’s an old legend about a snow child, one that Mabel is very familiar with. When this young girl, the answer to all her prayers, simply appears out of the snow, Mabel believes that it’s the fairy tale come to life. It’s interesting to see how she and Jack each deal with the unlikely appearance of the girl, named Faina, especially as her comings and goings stretch over the course of years.
Ivey does an excellent job depicting the brutal Alaskan landscape in The Snow Child. Her descriptions are vivid and readers will be able to close their eyes and see the world through Jack’s and Mabel’s eyes. They’re older than most other couples who seek to homestead, which makes their situation all the more difficult and desperate. It’s an incredible setting for a novel, made even moreso by Ivey’s beautiful, evocative writing.
The characters in The Snow Child are similarly well-written. Mabel is a cold, hard woman at the beginning of the novel. She’s experienced much loss and heartbreak, and it’s made her unwilling to let anyone else in. It’s wonderful, but also sad, to see how Faina transforms her, how Mabel opens her heart to this flighty, mysterious child, knowing Faina could disappear at any second. Whether it’s a major character or someone that barely plays a role in the story, it’s clear that Ivey took her time developing each and every person in this book.
This is a beautifully told story full of heartbreak, but also wonder. Readers will race through the novel as they try to find the answers behind Faina’s appearances, holding out hope that Jack and Mabel won’t be hurt once again. It’s an incredible novel that’s difficult to describe, but suffice it to say that it is absolutely worth reading. Ivey’s debut is a haunting novel that will grab hold of your heart and refuse to let go.