Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Snow Child

The Snow Child is a 2012 novel by Eowyn Ivey. Inspired by the Snow Child folk and fairy tales, this story is a touching exploration of loss. Arthur Ransome (author of the Swallows and Amazons series) makes an appearance in the book.

from the back of the book:
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart -he struggling to maintain 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 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 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 territory things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform them all.
favorite quotes:
All her life she had believed in something more, in the mystery that shape-shifted at the edge of her senses. It was the flutter of moth wings on glass and the promise of river nymphs in the dappled creek beds. It was the smell of oak leaves on the summer evening she fell in love, and the way dawn threw itself across the cow pond and turned the water to light.
What a tragic tale! Why these stories for children always have to turn out so dreadfully is beyond me. I think if I ever tell it to my grandchildren, I will change the ending and have everyone live happily ever after. We are allowed to do that are we not Mabel? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow?
To believe, perhaps you have to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers.
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.
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?
NPR concludes, "A chilly setting? Yes. A sad tale? This terrific novelistic debut will convince you that in some cases, a fantastic story — with tinges of sadness and a mysterious onward-pulsing life force — may be best for this, or any, season." The Washington Post says, "The real magic of this story is that it’s never as simple as it seems, never moves exactly in the direction you think it must." Kirkus Reviews calls it, "A fine first novel that enlivens familiar themes of parenthood and battles against nature." Slate calls it "a totally unobjectionable novel with good pacing and a pretty set, but it is not a revelation of content or style or form" and says, "This novel is an easy meditation on yearning, harsh climates, good marriages, and friendly neighbors. It’s got the bittersweet, womb-stirring quality that is catnip to many readers."


  1. Hmmm. I'm saying maybe to this one. Interesting side note, one of the instructors at my LYS is named Faina. She's from Russia.


    1. It's definitely different, but I'll look for more by this author. I had never heard that name before.