TITLE: The Snow Child
AUTHOR: Eowyn Ivey
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Little, Brown and Company/2012
GENRE: Adult Fiction
SOURCE: Local Library
Goodreads / Author's Website
When I picked up this book, I had heard of its reputation. I hadn't heard much about the actual plot, but the reviews I had read were positive. I have to tell you, I wasn't disappointed. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but how can you go wrong with a book that combines the 1920s with a sort of, half-adaptation of a Russian fairytale? Okay, actually I can think of about a million ways that could go poorly, but this book was great.
The Snow Child isn't really about the snow child at all, but instead about an aging couple, Jack and Mabel, trying to make a go of it on their Alaskan homestead. They're struggling. They're lonely. They moved up north away from everything they had ever known because they were suffocating under the grief of having lost a child during its birth, but things did not become easier and they're unsure if they can survive. It is at this point in their lives that they create a child out of snow and it is this same evening that a little girl first traipses into their yard.
The story follows Jack and Mabel as they struggle to survive, determine who this girl is, whether or not she's real, but it is also a tale about grief, love and the places where they intersect.
I loved this book; it's fairly long, but I pretty much devoured it in one sitting. If I have everything straight in my mind, it's based off of a classic Russian story, but the fairytale aspect isn't overdone. The main focus of this story is on relationships. I love the character study. I love watching these people grow.
Mable started off as somebody I just could not relate to. She's a lot older than I am and seemed at the outset like a fairly weak character, but that was just because I hadn't "gotten to know her" if you will. Both Jack and Mabel are complex figures struggling with some very difficult emotions and the more you read, the more you feel for them. It's their story that drew me in. They were goodhearted individuals who had some very bad luck and even though at certain points you can see things won't go their way, you just keep hoping they will.
The snow child herself is mysterious. I was left wanting to know more about her, but I'm honestly okay that she managed to maintain her mystery throughout the story. The supporting characters like the Bensons, the neighbours down the road, add depth to the story and provide interesting counterpoints to Jack and Mabel. Overall, this was a group of people I enjoyed reading about.
The atmosphere and prose were also a major draw for me. If you can't tell by now, I'm a sucker for a beautifully written, poetic, work of fiction. The Snow Child is definitely one of those books. The descriptions of the landscapes and the long, lonely winters are breathtakingly beautiful and I would recommend giving this book a shot for that reason alone.
Ivey is an incredibly talented author and I hope she publishes another book in the near future. This book would have been a better read by a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate in December rather than on the warmest day of June, but I loved it all the same.