The Snow Child

The Snow ChildThe Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Published by Reagan Arthur Books on February 1st 2012
Pages: 386
ISBN: 0316175676
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five-stars

What happens when a childless couple, Jack and Mable, build a child out of snow during the season’s first snowfall? Magic! That is what happens. The Snow child is based on a Russian fairy tale called Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden). Set in rural Alaska, this book is atmospheric, eerie, hopeful, with an underlying sadness. The writing is beautiful, moving and takes the reader deep into Alaska and into the home of Jack and Mabel, into their lives, the lives of their friends, through the snow and into their hearts.

Jack and Mabel have left Pennsylvania behind in search of a better quieter life. They really don’t know just how harsh winter can be in Alaska. How hard it will be to grow crops and keep livestock alive. The darkness and cold weigh them down. They feel they are drifting apart. Mabel, at one point, tries to drown herself but the ice has other plans and she returns home to spend the evening with her husband. Both feel distant from each other. Both alone but living under the same roof. How lonely a life they have – filled with sadness and longing for a child. They had a stillborn once but have no hopes that they will ever have a child again. I could literally feel the sadness seeping through the pages – drip drip drip. The longing, the loneliness, the sadness, the pain.

Then one night they decide to tuck their loneliness away and venture outside and play as if they were children themselves. For one night they are able to forget their past loss, and be free. They play in the snow and fashion a child out of snow. They dress their “snow child” with a scarf and dress.

The next day they see a little girl running through the woods with a fox as her companion. Could this young girl be their “snow child” They name her Faina. She brings change for both of them. The sadness that has been weighing them down melts away. Could this child, born of “ice and snow” be the answer they have been looking for. They begin to care for her and she them. They become a family. Faina comes and goes as she pleases, often disappearing to who knows where. She brings them gifts of berries and meat. Never really theirs but always a member of their family, Faina becomes their pride and joy. As the climate becomes warmer they begin to see her less and less until one day……

Ivey has a gift for making the snow and weather another character in this book. I could feel the coldness, the silence of the snow and ice seeping through the pages. This book is very atmospheric. It is also heavy on emotion. Sadness is an underlying emotion in this book. Often while reading this book, I wondered “what is real”, “what is fantasy” and “does it really matter?”

Beautiful and eloquent, The Snow Child is heavy on atmosphere and emotion. Not all fairy tales have a happy ending. Will this one?

five-stars

To The Bright Edge of the World

To The Bright Edge of the WorldTo The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 432
ISBN: 0316242853
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four-stars

Received from the publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Colonel Allen Forrester and his wife Sophie are newlyweds living in Military barracks. Their married life has just begun when Allen is asked to take a small group of men to navigate the impassable Wolverine River in Alaska. We know this is going to be a difficult if not nearly impossible task. Others have tried to navigate the river and their attempts have ended in tragedy. Colonel Forrester needs to document what he finds on his expedition through the use of a journal entries and photographs. While he looks forward to the challenge, he does not like having to leave his pregnant wife behind.

Sophie Forrester is pregnant with her first child and must stay behind in the Military Barracks while her husband is leading the expedition of the Wolverine River. She does not relish the thought of being left on the barracks with the other gossiping women. She is perceived as being different as she has a strong mind and enjoys walking in the woods and observing various birds. Without her husband or any family members she left with a difficult pregnancy. When she suffers a loss, she grieves but later finds the strength to take up photographing the birds she loves.

The love these two characters have is strong as evidenced by their thoughts and letters to each other as they are separated throughout the majority of this book by the expedition. I really enjoyed this part of the story-telling. I especially liked how they wrote to each other about when they fell in love with each other and why.

This books is very atmospheric. I found the entire expedition section to be dripping with atmosphere. I could visualize them walking through the snow and over the ice. I could see their breath and hear the silence. I grew up in the country and a section of the book resonated with me. When they were alone in the woods and the characters spoke about the stillness and quiet. I completely got that. Being alone in the woods with the snow and cold. The silence can be deafening. I know that doesn’t make sense to most but that part really resonated with me.

This book is told mainly through journal entries, letters and narrative. The beauty of the land, hardships, the cold, hunger, fear, loss of supplies and anguish are laid out brilliantly. There are various characters in this book such as Tillman, Pruitt, Samuelson, an Eyak man, to name a few. There are also the tribes of Native Americans who help them out along the way. The expedition would not have been successful without their assistance.

This book is also told in the modern day through communication between Walt, a relative of Allen and Sophie, and Josh who works at a museum. Walt has sent a box of Allen’s journals and photographs to Josh in an attempt to help document this part of Alaska’s history. So yes, this book jumps around between the “present” day and the past. It does so with ease and helps keep the story moving.

This book is completely different from her other book, “The Snow Child” but she still incorporates folklore, magical realism and the setting being Alaska. Her descriptions of the cold are so vivid in both books.

To the Bright Edge of the World is wonderfully written and atmospheric. I felt like I was right there on the expedition with them. The gift of Ivey’s writing is taking the reader right out of their world and placing them in the world she has created.

four-stars