Author: Eowyn Ivey
Publisher: Headline Review
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
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.
This story is so beautiful written; it's almost like a fairy tale. The brutal and gorgeous nature feels so real, I imagined myself sitting in a small cabin, reading the book and listening to the wind and snow play outside. I loved it. Eowyn Ivey keeps the story right on the crossing between fairy tale and reality, keeping the reader constant doubting what's true and what's imagination. The story is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.
My heart was bleeding for Mabel and Jack - they each struggle on their own and have a hard time letting each other in and sharing their thoughts. Not much really happens in the story, but the relationship between Mabel and Jack (and later Faina) keeps the story running and interesting even when the pacing is a bit slow. The Alaskan wilderness crawled under my skin and I was dreaming about a beautiful winter wonderland.
The story is a bit sad at times (obviously) but thankfully the author introduces my favorit character; Esther - she is so much fun and so alive. Another character I liked was Faina even though I never really got to know her - I don't think the author intended me to, though. Faina is so mysterious - a child with both an old and a young spirit. Free, yet trapped - Spreading joy, but also sorrow. She is the essence of a fairy tale.
I loved the ending and it captures the story completely. The Snow Child is a wonderful mix of fairy tale and 'Little House on the Prairie'. This is definitely a re-read for all long winters to come.