The Snow Child by 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 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.
The Snow Child is one of the best books I have ever read. It had me hooked from the beginning and it was impossible to put down.
The Snow Child is at once a mysterious fairy tale and a realistic portrait of a couple damaged by grief and longing. There is sort of a perpetual ebb and flow to the book. There is Faina who appears with the coming of Winter, there is the new growth of the crops each summer, and above all, there is the cycle of emotions the characters feel: love, sadness, guilt, anger, etc. Everything seems to go in circles.
There are so many things I love about this book. Ivey writes eloquently and has a unique ability to capture the beauty and violence of the landscape. What I most appreciate is her reverence for the wilderness. It’s place in her story is as a character of equal importance.
The characters are so well conceived and the story so heartfelt that I found myself thinking about them well after I’d set down the book. The Snow Child is full of wonder and magic and miracles, and yet it’s also startlingly honest and painfully human.
It’s hard for me to really describe everything that was incredible about this novel, but it was certainly one of the most magical books I’ve read. It’s something that will stay with me for a long time to come.