The Snow Child Author:Eowyn Ivey 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 t... more »he 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.« less
Review first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2012/02/snow-child.html
The Snow Child is a re-interpretation of an old Russian tale. This version tells the story of Jack and Mabel, an older couple who long to have a child but have given up of hope of ever doing so. They have recently relocated to Alaska in an effort to escape a life surrounded by other people's children. Yet, their sadness accompanies them.
As the story goes, one day after a snow storm, they build a child out of snow - a little girl. Lo and behold, the child comes to life. They name the child Faina and grow to think of her as their own. The book follows what happens over the coming years.
The book does make reference to the Russian tale fairly early and reveals the ending of that tale. However, even knowing the possible ending had no effect on how much I enjoyed the book. The story is beautifully written. The writing makes you feel the longing of Jack and Mabel. It draws you into the solitude and the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. It captures the wild and ephemeral nature of Faina.
This story blurs the distinction between what is real and what exists in our imagination. I am still reflecting on who Faina was. However, as the quote above suggests, perhaps I will stop looking for explanations and just enjoy the wonder of the story. This is Eowyn Ivey's debut book. I can't wait to read more!
Enchanting. Magical. A fairy tale. These and similar words and phrases describe this book and rightfully so.
An older man, Jack, and an older woman, Mabel, move to Alaska in the 1920s to establish a homestead. Their reasons for moving away from family were many - adventure, no children of their own, a chance to establish and build their own lives. Both have longed for a child since they lost their son but it was never to be. The longing lingers in Mabel's heart every day of her life.
Jack believes his role is to protect and provide for this wonderful fragile and creative woman. She wants to help with clearing the land and planting the crops and until he injures his back he refuses her help. With the injury, he must rely on friends, neighbors, and his wife who is not nearly as fragile as he thought. Their life changes dramatically as they work together to establish their home and raise their crops.
Also part of their lives is the gentle and lovely Faina whose father dies and leaves her alone. Faina is independent and capable of taking care of herself in this rugged land even though Jack and Mabel long to "adopt" her as their own. She comes and stays with them only during the winter. When the snow melts she moves north, leaving them to wonder how she manages.
No one believes that she is real until neighbor friends arrive unexpectedly while she is visiting. As might be expected, the neighbor boy falls in love with Faina and the story moves on like the fairy tale on which it is based.
I loved reading this light, delightful book but felt that the author worked too hard to stay true to the Russian folk tale on which this book is based. Thus the ending did not seem appropriate but I enjoyed the read nevertheless.
It is the 1920s, and Jack and Mabel have moved to Alaska to homestead and to escape the shame and sadness of being unable to bear children. And then one winter they meet Faina, a young girl who seems to have materialized from the snow and who lives in the forbidding Alaskan wilderness. The mysterious Faina alters the hearts and lives of Jack and Mabel in ways that echo a Russian fable which Mabel recalls from her youth.
Gorgeously written and richly atmospheric, The Snow Child enthralled me. The characterizations are superb, the storytelling is utterly compelling, and the homesteading lifestyle and Alaskan landscape are vividly conveyed. The narrative weaves together strands of harsh reality and enchanting mysticism into a mosaic of wonderment. The lines dividing reality from fantasy are indistinct and the reader is swept into a mesmerizing story of hope and heartbreak.
One of the blurbs on the cover states, If Willa Cather and Gabriel Garcia Marquez had collaborated on a book, The Snow Child would be it. That accurately conveys all that is wonderful about this novel. The Snow Child is complete perfection and is at the top of the list of favorite books I have read this year.
This is a beautiful story, reminiscent of a fairy tale. Set in the 1920s, an older Alaskan couple is childless. Jack and Mabel are trying to make a life in the harsh environment. Hard work and isolation is their daily way of life; love and loyalty keeps them going.
During a snowfall, Jack and Mabel playfully create a "snow child". The next morning, a tiny set of footprints are found in the snow. The snow child is gone.
Thereafter, Jack and Mabel, at different times, each sees a little girl in the woods. A fox seems to always be nearby the girl. They don't speak of these unusual and unexplained sightings. They fear that speaking of the girl may make her disappear.
When the girl comes to the cabin, she calls herself Faina. Jack and Mabel are entranced by her seemingly surreal existence. They struggle to understand how she can survive in such harsh conditions, the tiny little thing that she is. They also don't know how she fits into their own lives.
This magical story is beautiful and enchanting. I was captivated. The depiction of homesteading the Alaskan frontier is realistic. The story of Jack, Mabel and Faina is a heartfelt one of love, resilience, hope, and possibilities.
Eowyn Ivey has written a novel that is sure to be a classic. It will remain with you, to be read again and shared with others.
As there are already a few reviews which tell the story, I will not. Ivey's writing is flawless. If every author has a single story, this one flows effortlessly and I did not want to put the book down. My 14 yr. old daughter also read it, as I found nothing that was age inappropriate.
As someone who has wintered in rural Maine, I enjoyed reading about one room in Alaska, for long....winters, warmed only with a wood stove with just each other for company, but alone so much of the time. Someone explained them as an older couple, but to put it in modern perspective, at the beginning of the book they were probably not yet 40. In that time period, she would have been considered a bit of a failure, or at best weak not to have any children. I could feel Mabel's heart and enjoyed her neighbor friend, all characters were well fleshed.