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

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