Book Review: The Snow Child

Title/Author:  The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Genre:  Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Family

Published:  February 1st, 2012 by Reagan Arthur Books

Hardcover, 389 pages

How I Got the Book:  Checked it out from the library.

Why I Picked It Up?:  I stumbled upon it through a Goodreads ARC giveaway and immediately added it to my TBR list because it just sounded like a beautiful tale.

Book Jacket Blurb:  “Homesteaders Jack and Mabel have carved out a quiet life of hard work and routine for themselves in the wilderness that is 1920 Alaska, both still deeply longing for the child it’s now impossible for them to have.  Yet their love for each other is strong, and in a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they play together, builiding a child out of snow.  The next morning the snow child is gone–but a trail of tiny footsteps remains.  For weeks following, they both catch glimpses of a blond little girl alone in the woods but neither dares mention it to the other, afraid that long-buried hopes have overruled common sense.

The the little girl, who calls herself Faina, shows up on their doorstep.  Small and fair, she seems truly magical:  she hunts with a red fox at her side, she leaves blizzards in her wake, and somehow she manages to survive alone in the harsh Alaskan wilderness.  As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand Faina, they come to lover her as their own.  But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform them all…”

My Review of this Work:

Ladies and gents, I have once again stumbled upon a novel of such brilliant proponents that I really cannot describe to you the beauty and amazement of this debut novel by Eowyn Ivey.  Based upon a Russian fairytale, The Snow Child will take you on a magical journey through the frigid winters to tell you a heartwarming story of love, family, belief, and strength.

Taking place in the great Alaskan wilderness, The Snow Child is the story of Mabel and Jack creating a life in their new homestead in the desolate Alaskan mountainside.  Moving away from Pennsylvania to start a life of quiet farming in an unexplored territory seemed like the perfect remedy for Mabel and Jack’s tragic loss of their stillborn baby a few years earlier.  They both wanted adventure, they both wanted to be a part of something new, and they both wanted to find something more to life than just what they new back east.  But the adventure isn’t what they had in mind–preparing the land for farming was hard, and Jack couldn’t do it before the snows hit.  And just when it all seemed like a lost cause, blessings came in all shapes and sizes, and the magic of the first snow changed Jack and Mabel’s lives forever.

I have never felt as instantly emotionally connected to a character in a book as I do to Mabel and Jack, but I found myself smiling, laughing, and crying as they go through the joys and pains of their lives.  Readers are introduced to Mabel from the very first line, and within the first 8 pages I found myself to be already a part of her–we know exactly where she is, exactly where she’s coming from, exactly how she feels…and we’ve only known her for 8 pages.  That really attributes to Ivey’s beautiful writing style, entertwining her readers into the mind and heart of her character from the start.  And then there is Jack, who is strong yet so desperate for things to be okay that he is willing to do the unthinkable and head north to the mines for paid work.  You can literally feel the pain between them as they struggle to communicate their hurt and sorrow to each other.  Ivey showcases her brilliancy by establishing this strong connection between the readers and her characters, pulling readers into her story while simultaneously nestling her characters into the reader’s heart.  This novel is, quite literally, the in-page/out-of-page experience.

Each and every character in this novel plays an important role in the lives of Mabel and Jack, and through each of them they both go through a beautiful transformation, from living in dispair and pain to finding the joys of life again.  And the most important of these characters is Faina.  Faina the girl who magically appears in their lives one winter day.  Faina, who becomes the center of their life, bringing a beauty and a grace that is indescribable.  She brings them hope, she teaches them not only how to fall in love with a child, but also how to fall in love with each other again.

I find that I do not want to tell you any more about this novel because I think it would ruin some of the magic of your first reading if I told you a lot more about it.  So I will just tell you that this novel is more than just a book–it truly is a transcedence of the soul.  This novel will touch you in ways that other stories could never come close to reaching because this is everyone’s story.  Everyone needs a Snow Child in their life, something to inspire them, something to encourage them, something to teach them how to love.  The Snow Child is not just about reading–it’s about experiencing.

Memorable Moments:

“In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.”  –pg 251.

“Dear, sweet Mabel,” she said.  “We never know what is going to happen, do we?  Life is always throwing us this way and that.  That’s where the adventure is.  Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare.  It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves.  Tell me, when have you felt most alive?” –pg. 258

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Book!

A beautiful and dazzling display of the magic of living in the Alaskan frontier, and what a little bit of hope and faith can bring those who are deserving and willing to believe.  This novel is a magical story about all kinds of love and what it means to be a family.  Definitely a worthy fictional debut, and one I would recommend to lovers of a magical fairytale, of sorts.  A 4.5 rating, hands down.  =)

Love and the Magic of a Snow Day,


5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Snow Child

  1. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories says:

    Oh this story was so beautiful and one of my top 10 favorites. I read it in the 100 degree summer and was chilled to the bone by the descriptions of the Alaskan landscape, I actually covered myself in blankets! Great review, wish I had written a review back a year ago when I read it. It had such an emotional impact on me.

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