“The Snow Child” is the brainchild of debut novelist Eowyn Ivey, a resident of Alaska, where this story is set. Loosely based on an amalgam of fairy tales bearing similar names, the book centers on a childless older couple from the Lower 48 who make the trek to the Alaskan frontier in the early 1920s, to start a new chapter in their lives.
From the very first page, the book grabs you. Mabel’s play for a new life in the wilderness has failed miserably, it seems, as she contemplates drowning herself during an afternoon walk on the homestead. “She was several feet from safe ground when she allowed herself to stop and peer down between her boots. It was like walking on glass. She could see granite rocks beneath the moving, dark turquoise water. A yellow leaf floated by, and she imagined herself swept alongside it and briefly looking up through the remarkably clear ice. Before water filled her lungs, would she be able to see the sky?” Yeah. Wow.
Mabel’s husband, Jack, is faring no better, emotionally or physically. Richly drawn, Jack struggles with what he perceives to be his own failures in tending to his land and to his wife. Both so sad, the two eventually find companionship, and more importantly, each other, when a strange girl appears, disappears and reappears at their door over the course of several winters. With a nod to another favorite, “The Night Circus,” there’s something magical about Faina that leaves the reader wondering if she is truly real or just a figment of imaginations driven mad by an unforgiving landscape.
The story is about all kinds of love—for friends, for parents, for children and for soul mates. It’s sad, and wonderful, and beautifully written. You’ll set the book down feeling all the better for knowing people like Mabel and Jack, Esther and George, and sweet Faina.
The Snow Child