Book Title/Author: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Publisher/Year: February 2012 by Reagan Arthur Books (first published 2012)
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy
Source: Own, bought at Chapters
“Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.” (Goodreads)
I wish that I had made time for this book sooner. I think I have a strong contender for Favourite Books of 2016 already!
I do not want to gush too much about this book because I think it is better if you go in with less information. Discover this book for yourself. If you like any of the following, then you’d probably really enjoy The Snow Child:
- historical fiction genre
- detailed scenic descriptions
- flawed but loveable characters who are struggling in their relationship
- magical realism
The Snow Child is a retelling of a Russian fairytale called Snegurochka (or The Snow Maiden). The original story and other retellings are mentioned throughout this book in the section dividers.
I enjoyed many things about this read but what I liked most of all was the conflicting doubt you felt about the snow child’s existence. You believe that the child is real when the story is closely intertwined with the Jack and Mabel’s perspectives, but it seems that are the only two who see this snow child — so are we all crazy for believing she exists? Then there is the subtle stylistic way that Ivey writes the dialogue for whenever the snow child speaks, again this could be to show that there is some distinction between reality and the magic that might be present. It is these tiny details that got to me!
Another two noteworthy pieces that I would like to share is that The Snow Child had well-rounded characters. I cared for all the characters, each equally loveable and flawed in their own way. Secondly, I especially loved Ivey’s descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness; the scenic explanations were captivating and had me feeling nostalgic of home (a small town in Ontario, Canada). The landscape and way in which Ivey wrote about it play an important role in the story.
I highly recommend this book! I will caution that if you are someone who likes there to be no loose-ends and require a concrete resolution by the end, this book may not be for you. I personally found the ending beautiful, but this is one of those endings that readers can interpret a number of ways.
The conclusion left me wondering and feeling somewhat hopeful. I was thinking back on the book for days afterward — and it has been a while since a book has done that to me.
“We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?”
“You did not have to understand miracles to believe in them, and in fact Mabel had come to suspect the opposite. To believe, perhaps you had to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers.”