The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Back in February I wrote the following:

Everything about The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey makes me want to read it. The cover art, the website, the video, the plot, the connection to a Russian fairy tale, the author’s name – everything. Thus begins the rearrangement of my TBR pile …

As the above makes clear, it just seemed like a book that had so many of the elements I look for in a book.  For those of you out of the loop, here is the publisher’s synopsis:

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.

Well, in April I finally got the chance to read it.  With all the hype surrounding this book – my own above, and many others – there was ample room for disappointment. But despite the fact the book was different than I had expected, there was no let down for me.

It was an evocative and deeply human story with a fairy tale woven in. And like so many fairy tales and folklore – not the Disney versions – this one was touched with sorrow and tragedy. But also infused with love and hope and beauty as they really exist.

Gorgeous prose, a wonderfully developed setting that become a character of its own, and a great cast of characters make this a novel with depth and emotion – a heft belied by the fairy tale at it heart.

What is amazing is how in a debut novel Ivey blends historical fiction, a sense of magical realism and the more traditional aspects of a novel into a wonderful story.  The characters have depth and draw out real emotion.  The land of Alaska become a character itself; fearsome and yet beautiful.  You see the characters grow and change; you see relationships develop and friendships bloom; you see the joys and despair of life.

It is not a fast paced novel by any means but the absorbing and beautiful nature of the story means that you want to savor it.  This one book where the waiting seemed to make it better.  If you haven’t had a chance to read The Snow Child I highly recommend it.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the link to my interview.

    I agree with your first paragraph about what you said in Feb. There’s an inviting and compelling atmosphere about the cover, the feeling I get from the first few sentences.

    Loved the book.

  2. So I am not going to even read my husbands review until I am done saying this fresh from finishing the book. What I liked the most were several things. 1- she captures a moment or emotion that so rings true within humanity in a turn of phrase so many times in her story telling, it made me shocked this was her first novel. 2- the details captured about Alaska and surviving the wilderness of that time period, reminded me deeply of my family and of a time that has passed so close to us as a culture that is tingled my senses bringing me back to a childhood I sometimes forget. 3- (and maybe should be #1) Her ability to intertwine the truth and fairy tale descriptions; to dance in each others light to the point of not knowing what you wanted to believe. Was truely wonderful. It made my life more enjoyable this week. To be unfettered between these worlds….

    I will look forward to her next book.
    Lisa

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