The Snow Child: A Novel

by Eowyn Ivey

Hardcover, 2012

Call number




Reagan Arthur Books (2012), Edition: 1, 400 pages


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.--From Amazon.… (more)

Media reviews

Library Journal | January 2015 | Vol. 140 No. 1
"Inspired by the Russian fairy tale The Snow Maiden, Eowyn Ivey's deubut novel, The Snow Child (Back Bay: Little, Brown. 2012. ISBN 9780316175661. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316192958), features Jack and Mabel, a childless couple grieving their infant son's death. ...richly evokes landscape and nature as it explores the many types of families that find their way into being."

User reviews

LibraryThing member mckait
What an incredible journey! I found that at times, I was holding my breath, reading as fast as I can, because I had to know what would happen next. I found that I had tears in my eyes time and again. Sometimes they were tears of relief, sometimes grief, then other times I was so happy for what the story was becoming. Then there was another turn, and another and another.

This is a heartwarming story, it is a heartbreaking story. There is pure joy, and there are pages and pages of agony. I am nearly breathless with it. At first, I just wasn't sure what to make of it. My final thought is that this is a story that needs to be read for all of the things I have mentioned. I am just not sure I could do it again.
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LibraryThing member msf59
Winter in the Alaskan frontier. Jack and Mabel, a childless couple from Pennsylvania, have moved to Wolverine River, somewhere in the wilderness of Alaska. They were looking for a fresh start and decide to try farming. It’s a tough, lonely existence and they find themselves plodding along, unhappy and disconnected. During the season’s first snowfall, the couple, caught in a rare moment of levity, have a snowball fight, which leads them to making a snowman, in the shape of a little girl, fitting her with a scarf and hat. The next morning, the snow child has disappeared but they spot a young girl running through the woods, wearing the discarded clothes.
This story, loosely based on a Russian fairytale, is about hope and survival. How a little girl can bring this couple happiness and possibly something deeper and darker. The author, an Alaskan native, captures the tone and the setting of this wild isolated place, with perfect detail. I think the book could have used additional editing but I was drawn to these characters, their tenacity and resilience, and ended up enjoying it very much.
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LibraryThing member elliepotten
Ivey's stunning debut novel is set in Alaska in the 1920s, where middle-aged couple Jack and Mabel are struggling to survive on their new homestead. While Jack is breaking his back every day trying to clear enough land to establish a farm, Mabel is quietly wilting under the winter sun and grieving for the stillborn baby that has prevented her ever having a child of her own. The only solace in this lonely existence is the rowdy Benson family on the next homestead - jovial George, his earthy wife Esther and their three sons.

Then one night, during the first snow of the winter and in a moment of giddy high spirits, Jack and Mabel build a little girl out of snow outside their cabin. The next morning, to their dismay, the girl has been knocked down and Mabel's scarf and mittens are gone. Soon afterwards they catch a glimpse of a small girl flitting through the forest with a red fox in tow, and they are mystified. Is this the girl they created together, come alive through their shared longing for a child? Or is she just a little girl in need, trying to survive in the wilderness by herself? And so Faina comes into their lives, changing their world forever...

It is an absolutely beautiful book, and well on track to be one of my favourites of this year. It's not a fast-paced story, but one that I wanted to savour and enjoy, page by page. Ivey's descriptions made me feel like I was there in the cabin and walking through the woods with her characters; I could feel the chill in the air, smell the spruce trees and taste the snow on the breeze. I think one of the things I liked best about the book was its tenderness and humanity. There were moments that made me smile, moments that made me sigh, and moments that made me well up. Every character pulled me in so that I was utterly invested in their happiness and wellbeing, and every conversation and interaction is rooted in such deep emotional awareness that it felt pitch-perfect and utterly real.

Alongside this, of course, was the magical presence of Faina herself. She is such an ethereally beautiful character, yet also strong and brutally capable, so that the reader, like Jack and Mabel, never knows quite what to make of her. I like that this magical element - based on a Russian fairytale - is written with a very gentle touch, so that it never feels implausible and the reader is left to come to their own conclusions. Highly recommended to readers who like their books to be firmly rooted in human relationships, who appreciate being able to a get a real sense of place as they read, and who enjoy authors like Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen who interweave their novels with a thread of magic and wonder. Read it!
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LibraryThing member teresa1953
This is a truly magical novel which enchanted me from the first page.

Jack and Mabel have moved to Alaska to begin a new life. The climate and the terrain are mercilessly unforgiving and it is a lonely existence. That suits them just fine. It is the solitude they crave….the not having watch and hear children whoop and laugh at play. Not having to watch pregnant women and young mothers with their precious little ones. You see Jack and Mabel lost their only child shortly after birth and the couple have remained childless. It is some years later in 1920 that they make the decision to begin again.

The story begins on the night of the first snow of the winter at their log cabin. On a sudden whim, the couple decide to build a snow girl out in the yard which they decorate with mittens and a scarf….using berry juice to fashion her mouth and yellow straw to form her hair. When they awaken the next morning, the snow girl has completely disappeared, along with the mittens and scarf. It isn’t long before the two of them start to see a small figure darting through the trees at the border of their land. Can it be that the snow girl has come to life?

This story is based on an ancient Russian fairy tale and is beautifully written. The author grew up and still resides in Alaska and her love of the raw beauty of this part of the world is very evident. Each chapter evokes a wonderful atmosphere, leading the reader to be totally absorbed in the story. All the characters come to vivid life and they almost feel like lifelong friends. I particularly felt drawn to Mabel and their neighbours George and Esther who become great support to the couple.

The tale is a sad one, but somehow uplifting as it reaches it’s conclusion. One reviewer has said that it broke her heart……and I certainly agree with that. I highly recommend this debut novel and can’t wait for the next one from this talented author.

This book was made available to me, prior to publication, for and honest review.
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LibraryThing member ErisofDiscord
One of my favorite fairy tales when I was a child was "The Snow Maiden," an old Russian story about an elderly couple longing to have a child for their own, so they make a snow girl in their yard, and the girl comes to life. The fairy tale's plot gives the novel its basic bones, but Ivey's book expands upon the tale in many deep and emotional levels. There is a married couple who are fairly advanced in age, just like in the original fairy tale, and their names are Jack and Mabel. But unlike the fairy tale, the setting is not in Russia, but in Alaska during the early 1900's.

Jack and Mabel have come to settle in Alaska to escape the pain of losing their child during birth, and to create a fresh start in life. It is not going well, though. Mabel is contemplating suicide and Jack is worried about how they will survive the harsh winter. Their marriage is fracturing and the distance is growing between them, but in a moment of happiness during the first snow, they build a snow girl in their yard. The next day the snow girl is gone, and over the weeks they see glimpses of a girl who seems like she was carved out of the wilderness slipping in between the trees, a wild red fox by her side as if it were a pet. Is she real? Or are their grief stricken minds creating her from their imagination?

Alaska is such a perfect setting for this book, and I am jealous of the Ivey's ability to paint the frigid, icy and eerie location so lushly onto the pages. Ivey is gifted with a writing style that is descriptive without being overbearing, and it shows in every aspect of the story. From the setting to the plot to the characters, she crafted them excellently.

Characters are my favorite aspect to analyze in a story, as they are often what makes or break a novel. In The Snow Child, not a single one of them is obligatory or thrown together haphazardly. The main characters are particularly shining. Although I am a teenager who has never been a mother or longed desperately to have children, I felt Mabel's pain about her loss very keenly, and I sympathized with her loneliness and isolation. On the other hand I felt for Jack, who was suffering from the death of his child in his own quiet and distant way. I also loved the character of Faina, the snow girl - her innocence and wisdom, plus her unearthly knowledge of the wilderness of Alaska, made her unique from any other character I've read.

This is a story I wouldn't mind reading again later on, at a slower pace, just so I can absorb the language deeper into my skull. The characters, plot, pacing, and writing were eloquent and beautiful, and it conjures up the same feelings that I felt when I first read the fairy tale when I was a girl. I love fairy tale retellings and this one definitely joins the hallowed ranks of some of the best I've ever read.
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LibraryThing member BooksCooksLooks
Jack and Mabel live in a time where children were expected in a marriage. Mabel so wants to be a mother but she has only had one pregnancy and that ended in an early delivery of a child that did not survive. She and Jack didn't talk about it they just thought a fresh start was in order so they pulled up roots and started a homestead in Alaska. She with one set of dreams, he with another. Both not expressing them, both not talking, both afraid of the past, both trying to escape, both still yearning for a child.

Mabel sees Alaska as a way to escape from all of the pity she sees in the eyes of family and friends. She just wants life to be her and Jack. Jack knows they can't make it in such a harsh land alone. He is too old to be breaking the land. He needs help. Mabel feels at fault for her inability to give him children but Jack does not blame her...

Just at the right time a boisterous family comes into their life to help them manage their homestead. A family with three strong children. A woman who starts to bring Mabel out of her shell. Also at this time their appears a mystical child. A child that appears the day after Jack and Mabel make a small snowgirl. Is she real or is she a manifestation of all of Mabel's hopes and dreams?

I cannot tell you the joy I found in this book. Despite the overall sadness of the main theme there was much to celebrate within. Faina, the snow child was a delight! In writing her dialog no quotation marks are used so you "hear" it in your head and wonder if she is real or not. She came to me as a whisper on a breeze. I felt as if I had been dropped into a snowglobe and was living in some kind of mystical snow world. The writing almost surrounded me and then fell like the little pieces of snow. This book is special; I cursed my reading schedule because I could not immediately start it over again. I know that I will find more when I do get the opportunity to drop again into Faina's magical world.

It's by no means all magic and light. There is much depth to be found in the tale. Sadness and loss. The bonds of friendship and the power of love and what those two can do to keep a person from completely falling apart. I am not usually one for books with messages but this book stole my heart. It's a keeper and now sits on my top reads shelf. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think. I love a book that makes me do all of that and more.
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LibraryThing member -Cee-
Four stars for the touching fairy tale story of hardship, courage, and a wide spectrum of love/friendship PLUS 1/2 star for the abundance of snow!

Written by a native of Alaska, the descriptions of the mountains, fields, rivers, and woods wrap securely around the reader in a blanket of reality. And those elements are shaken up by strong overtures of magic and ancient folk tale qualities.

This story of a grieving older couple, childless and trying to start a farming life in Alaska, meanders into unexpected paths of discovery. The slow journey through their emotional despair is wrought with struggles of the heart, mindful revelations, and encounters with a wilderness child 'born' of snow.

The pace of the plot seems to drag in spots, but this is compensated by the incredible descriptions of nature and wildlife. Still thinking about the ending... somewhat strange. But then the whole book was other-worldly.
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LibraryThing member rainpebble
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey; Kindle; (4*)

This very imaginative story takes its theme from a children's Russian fable of the same name, written by Freya Littledale and Barbara Lavallee. The characters are clearly defined as trailblazers, fighting the harsh winters and wilderness of Alaska in the early part of the twentieth century. Developed well, you can sense the contrast in the characters: Esther is larger than life, sturdy and sure-footed, Mabel is frail and tentative, George, a long time dweller in this seeming wasteland, is a wonderful kind, giving man and neighbor, and Jack is sincere and overwhelmed with his effort to develop the land and make it thrive, in spite of his age and inexperience. Faina is depicted as faerie like, magical and young, when we first meet her. Garrett, the Benson's son, is a boy of the wilderness; he loves it and prefers hunting and camping to farming. The characters are wholesome and thoughtful, helping each other in times of need, living off the environment that they are taming.
Childless and bereft, Mabel and Jack, a loving couple tired of being ridiculed and stared at, as if childlessness was an affliction, decide to move away from family and friends to Alaska, where they can begin their lives again, alone, living off the untamed land. It is a tender tale of deep love and loss, told beautifully with reality and fantasy mixing together with an easy grace.
Struggling to survive a task far greater than they imagined, they grow a little apart, become depressed and forlorn, giving up hope of succeeding in their fight to overcome the climate and the barrenness. Fearing that they will not be able to thrive on the farm they are trying to create, afraid they will have to return to civilization in shame, they drop their guard when the first snowstorm arrives, and like children, they build a snow child dressed in Mabel's mittens and gloves. They carve features colored with berries, provide branches for arms, they dance around with glee, rekindle their love for each other and renew their hope and efforts to survive.
When a strange child suddenly appears soon afterwards, wearing the mittens and gloves of the collapsed snow child, Mabel and Jack are astonished. For many years, she arrives with the first snowfall and leaves in the spring when the weather warms, witnessed by no one else, not even neighbors George and Esther, who often visit and have helped them to survive the toughest moments of their homesteading. Faina brings joy and warmth back into their lives, albeit briefly. That joy is always followed by a season of sadness when she leaves once again.
Faina, changes and influences their lives and they influence hers. She seems magical, like a spirit, and often strange events occur when she is around. Is she real or a figment of their imagination, resulting from 'cabin fever'? Will she always return?
This is a very tender magical novel about dreams and nightmares, belief and disbelief, life and death, love and loss. Love has the power to deal with all of these scenarios, or does it perhaps create them? How the issue of the snow child resolves itself, is the crux of this lovely little fairy tale. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member michelle_bcf
It’s 1920, and Jack and Mabel have moved to Alaska, to start a new life and leave their memories behind. However, Jack struggles to control the wild land, and Mabel struggles to forget the grief of her stillborn, and they seem to move further apart.

As the first snow falls, they find an unexpected closeness, and end up out in the snow, building a snowman.. or rather a snow girl. In the morning this snow girl has disappeared, and they start to catch glimpses of tracks, and a figure which looks like a small child.

Many reviewers are calling this book ‘magical’, and it does have that feel to it. The landscape and environment is vivid and harsh, and yet the snowy atmosphere adds it’s own magical touch. Eowyn never quite explains the child either, it’s left to the reader to decide if she has a real background, or a magical beginning.

This is a tale partly about Faina, the Snow Child of the story, but is also about Jack and Mabel, their new life, and their relationships. It’s about survival, grief, friendship and love, and it’s a simple but moving tale. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member melaniehope
You must read this book. The author has taken a fairytale/folk tale of The Snow Child and created an amazing story. The setting is 1920s Alaska, Jack and Mabel, a middle-aged couple who seem just on the verge of surviving their new life in the Alaska woods. It seems that many times Mabel is ready to give up the will to live. Mabel longs for a child, but her and her husband remain childless and escape the east coast for the Alaska wilderness to lose themselves.

Then Faina, a beautiful, feral child, slowly enters their lives. Mabel believes that she is a snow child that her and Jack created one night out of snow. The story happens in the winter and during snowfall.

Jack and Mabel are changed by Faina's presence. But no one else has ever seen Faina or heard of a girl being able to survive the harsh Alaskan winters on her own. So who is she? I don't want to write more for fear of ruining this beautiful story.

What makes this novel most remarkable is the quality of its writing. The descriptions are vibrant. The characters want love and happiness. Life on the farm seems real, with the dialogue kept to a minimum. What I liked the best was that even though the book seemed like a fairytale, I believed every bit of it.
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LibraryThing member Crazymamie
This book is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale of the same name. Jack and Mabel are an older couple who have moved to Alaska to escape the constant reminder that they have never been able to have any children. For Mabel, the Alaskan wilderness is as barren and desolate as she feels, but offers a way to start over away from the pity and the whispers. She wants a chance to build something for just the two of them and hopes that the hard work and isolation will provide solace for her grief. Things have not turned out as she envisioned, however. Instead of working the farm together, side by side, Jack and Mabel are dividing and conquering the tasks just as they have their grief - independently and alone. One evening during a snowstorm, the couple recaptures some of their youthful energy, and after a snowball fight they build a small snowman together. When they are done accessorizing their creation, they realize they have built a snow daughter. The next morning, Jack discovers that the snow sculpture has been destroyed and then notices that all of their props are missing - gone are the mittens and scarf and everything else that they used to make the snow girl appear real. And then he spies the small, human-like tracks leading away from the site and into the woods. What follows is a story that is the perfect companion for a winter's day - a cozy read best enjoyed in a comfy chair. Although the story is a bit longer than it needs to be, it is lovingly written and touches deeper than the surface as it explores the definition of family and friendship.… (more)
LibraryThing member JackieBlem
This is a tale of loneliness and magic, of a mystical reality that veils a more bleak one and answers a dream only halfway. What can you do when the only way to have your fondest wish is to lose it time and time again? This tale of an older couple in 1920s Alaska is filled with profound emotion and delicate storytelling. It weaves its own magic around the reader, drawing you in until you can feel and smell the glittering snow, hear the logs in the stove crackling, and perhaps see a glimpse of a blue coat, a flash of white-blonde hair, or the tail of a fox disappearing behind a tree just across the yard. This is a very strong start for a debut novelist--I'll be keeping my eye on her to see what she conjures up next.… (more)
LibraryThing member Beamis12
In 1940, Jack and Mabel move to Alaska as part of the homesteading program, as an effort to overcome a pervasive grief in their lives and a chance to start over. What they find is a wilderness that takes a great amount of work to tame and an environment that is at once hostile and beautiful. Ivey, a first author, in a lyrical and moving prose, immerses us in the beauty and the bitter cold, and with the adversity the homesteaders faced, with a rare talent. Jack and Mabel struggle, almost give up when faced with an unforseen challenge, but with the help of a snow child and the few friends they have made, they manage to continue on. Is the child real? Is she imagined from their shared desire to have a child? This is a great winter book, to be read in a comfy chair by a fire, to relish as only great storytelling can make one do.… (more)
LibraryThing member jmoncton
This was a beautiful story. Based on the Scandinavian fairytale of the snow child, an old lonely couple try to escape their sadness of not having children by settling in the Alaskan wilderness during the 1920s. Their life is not only physically difficult, but dark and depressing. That is until a wild and maybe magical child comes into their lives. The writing for this novel is absolutely beautiful and I loved the descriptions of the harsh Alaska land. Such a beautiful, uplifting story.… (more)
LibraryThing member auntmarge64
A magical story of love, loss, and wonder in the Alaskan wilderness.

Mabel and Jack are middle-aged, childless homesteaders, having transplanted from warmer climes for a new start. Mabel's one pregnancy was still-born, and there is a sadness in both of them that affects their ability to thrive together in this new place. One day, in a rare moment of shared lightheartedness, they build a snow child, clothe her and give her a lovely face, and then have a loving evening together. The next morning the snow child has been demolished but the clothing items are gone, and soon they start to see a young girl flitting through the woods wearing the missing items. No one knows who she is, and the neighbors think Mabel and Jack are hallucinating. But Mable remembers a fairy tale she heard as a youngster about an elderly, childless couple who also build a snow child and end up with a daughter.

Gently-wrought and entrancing, this Pulitzer finalist was a joy to read. Earlier I read Ivey's second novel, "To The Bright Edge of the World", and she has become one of those authors I'll be sure to watch for in the future.
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LibraryThing member etxgardener
Magical realism meets Nanook of the North in this story of a sad, childless couple in their fifties who move to Alaska in 1920 from their home in Pennsylvania to try and escape the utter sadness in their lives after a late-conceived child dies at birth. When we first meet Jack and Mable, their lives don't seem very much improved by the move. Jack has stoically tried to carve a farm out of the Alaskan wilderness, but with his age and little help he doesn't seem to be making much progress and is thinking of working in a coal mine over the winter in order to keep food on their table.. And Mable is on the brink of despair and in the early pages of the book walks out onto the river hoping that she will fall through thin ice and kill herself.

Help comes from two sources. First, their kindly neighbors, the Bensons, offered them the much-needed gift of friendship and physical help on their homestead. But more importantly, in a moment of rare levity on the night of the first snowfall, Jack and Mable build a snow girls outside their cabin. The next morning, the snow figure is gone and they see as young girl running through their trees in the woods. Over time, the little girl, called Faina, becomes the child they never had.

But is Faina real, or is she a magical creation of the snow figure they built on that first night of winter? The reader is kept guessing until the end of the book, but the other real magic is how Jack and Mable both grow as people learning to love again: each other, their friends the Bensons, the wild and beautiful Alaskan wilderness and the stange ethereal girl who has come into their lives.
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LibraryThing member SugarCreekRanch
A "retold fairy tale" of a middle-aged childless couple in an isolated Alaskan winter. One night they build a snow girl; the next morning, the snow girl is gone but they occasionally catch glimpse of a girl in the woods around the cabin. Is she real? Or a snow sprite?

The Snow Child is an atmospheric read, with the beautiful but harsh Alaskan wilderness playing a huge role. It's also quite emotional, as we feel Mabel's despair at having lost one child and her hope and joy at the possibility of mothering the snow child. The story is a nice blend of realism and fantasy, and tends to waver back and forth between them. Weaving the traditional "The Snow Maiden" book into the novel is a nice touch, too.… (more)
LibraryThing member Lucy_Rock
Eowyn Ivey (i.e. Tolkien’s Éowyn - a deliciously bookish namesake) is lucky enough to live in the remote, and rather huge, American state of Alaska. In The Snow Child she has drawn heavily on the region’s intense beauty and severity to provide the otherworldly backdrop to the lives of grief-laden couple Jack and Mabel. After losing their only child at birth ten years before, the pair have never been able to have a baby of their very own, something they have desperately hoped and prayed for and an absence that has caused them to become isolated from both each other and now, quite literally, the rest of the world. Moving to Alaska to find the space and simplicity they need to move on with their lives, the couple find nothing but poverty, darkness and separation. One night, in a rare moment of innocence and levity, the pair fashion a delicate little girl out of the snow in their front yard, complete with scarf and red mittens. In the morning she is gone, a single track of human footprints leading away from the melted figure and into the line of trees. A short while after, a beautiful, wild little girl enters their lives. Dressed in scarf and red mittens with fine delicate features and twigs in her white-blond hair, she is the child they have always hoped for, stepped right out of the wilderness… or… out of a fairytale itself?

This is a beautiful book on every level. Although the lead up to Christmas is clearly the perfect time for snow, magic and wishes, Eowyn Ivey still gives the book depth, trekking far across the Alaskan wilderness; a dank, dark, depressing frontier, and continuing all the way through to a place where Jack and Mabel can afford to hope and dream. Our snow maiden remains the focus of life in Alaska and the single delicious mystery that extends through and remains a long time after the book has been closed. However, what helps The Snow Child reaches far beyond the realms of simple fairy tale and nursery rhyme is the anchor of Jack and Mabel and the very real community that surrounds them. Although sympathetic about her circumstances, I found myself becoming extremely frustrated with Mabel and her reluctance both to meet her neighbours and throw herself into her new life – in a bit of a ‘come on love!’ manner. Instead, she initially appears surly and squeamish, in sharp contrast to her companion Esther. With Jack’s honest and hardworking nature, Garret’s surly and initially untrustworthy manner and a plethora of other minor salt-of-the-earth style characters, this becomes a family drama that extends far beyond the snow drift.

The life of self-sufficiency that Ivey and her family lead in Alaska is admirable. Hunting for meat, growing their own veg and raising chickens, it really does seem the rural idyll. Her familiarity with and love for this savage state permeates this novel with a sense of place rarely discovered. My partner and I have always dreamt of visiting Alaska, The Snow Child is the perfect travel companion.

This has been my favourite new book from 2012 by far. I can’t wait to see what she dreams up next…
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LibraryThing member john.cooper
In her first book, Ivey has crafted something that's more than a fairy tale but less than a novel. We have the naturalism that fairy tales lack — frontier Alaska has probably never been more vividly described — but the major characters are wispier than a novel requires. We spend so much time in the thoughts of Mabel, a middle-aged woman from the East, that we feel that we know her, but she's not really filled in. What really possessed her and her husband to move so far away from everything they'd known up to that point? What was her life like before coming to her new home in the North? What are her tastes, beyond literature? And does she have a range of emotion beyond passive, anxious worry and regret? In the last section of the book the point of view changes somewhat, and a character who had been a minor supporting player takes a lead role without becoming a whole person. It was frustrating to me to find this symbolic figure, this cardboard prop, become so pivotal to the story's end.

All that said, after inhabiting this book for a while, the sights, sounds and smells of Alaska seem to be with me like a memory, although I've never been there. That's an amazing accomplishment for any writer, and those who read novels primarily to be carried away to new places will want to read this.
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LibraryThing member kmstock
I really enjoyed this book. I think it's quite difficult to get the right balance with magical realism - to blur the line between what is (or might be) real and what is (or might be) magical (or metaphorical). I have rarely seen it done as well as it is in this book. A lovely 'voice' too, almost lovingly told, although with some very sad parts interwoven, but without it all getting too depressing.… (more)
LibraryThing member RealLifeReading
This is one of those books that I’ve let pass by for quite a while.

It was first published in 2012 and there was been plenty of talk about it and I had it on my TBR list but never picked it up.

It was a heatwave that made me borrow it.

39C or 102F!

And that is the kind of weather where you just have to stay indoors, turn on the AC, drink tons of ice water, and turn on the TV for the kids because it is just too hot to be outside.

So I was craving a book full of cold, full of ice and snow. A story where a scarf and hat and gloves and boots need to be pulled on, over layers of clothing. A story of freezing temperatures and the quiet, the stillness of winter. For summer is LOUD. The birds are up so early and they are chattering away all the time. The sun is blazing before 8am. Fans and air-conditioning units are whipping up the air. Summer is a noisy time. As you might be able to guess, summer is not my favourite.

And The Snow Child was just what these unbearably hot few days needed.

“November was here, and it frightened her because she knew what it brought – cold upon the valley like a coming death, glacial wind through the cracks between the cabin logs. But most of all, darkness. Darkness so complete even the pale-lit hours would be choked.”

Although it took a few chapters for snow to actually arrive. And at last, there it is…

“The first flakes clumped together as they twirled and fluttered to the ground. First just a few here and there, and then the air was filled with falling snow, caught in the light of the window in dreamy swirls.”

Jack and Mabel are struggling in the Alaskan wilderness. After a long summer and autumn, the land was barely cleared, they only got one little potato harvest, and Mabel makes pies to sell in town to help out.

And when the snow falls, they decide to make a snowman. A little snow girl.

The snow child disappears the next morning but they catch glimpses of a girl, no more than 8 or 9, with white-blond hair, who seems to be living in the forest. Is she a lost child? Or could she be like that snow child in the Russian fairytale Mabel remembers, the one a childless couple makes, but in every version, the story doesn’t end well, with the girl always melting.

The girl, as Jack and Mabel learn, is named Faina. She flits between the woods and the little cabin, dancing in and out of their lives, bringing a new spark to their relationship. But we are never quite sure if she is imaginary or not.

It’s a strange and mesmerizing tale, something that hovers between fairytale and reality.
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LibraryThing member KrisR
This is a beautifully written book. The Snow Child is inspired by the Russian folktale in which a childless elderly couple make a snowchild that comes to life as a young girl. Ivey's use of the folktale is multilayered and inventive, and works very well in the book's setting of Alaska in the 1920s.

I cared about the characters, but I especially loved the depictions of the Alaskan wilderness throughout the seasons. The novel also pays homage to freedom and individuality, while at the same time celebrating the bonds of friendship, love and trust that tie together friends and family. One theme that resonates with me is the importance of being a part of something larger than oneself - a family, a farm, a close friendship, nature.… (more)
LibraryThing member suetu
A winter’s tale

“Like many fairy tales, there are many different ways it is told, but it always begins the same. An old man and an old woman live happily in their small cottage in the forest, but for one sorrow: they have no children of their own. One winter’s day, they build a girl of snow.”

The quote above is about the Russian fairy tale that is the basis of Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel, The Snow Child. Set in Wolverine River, Alaska, shortly after WWI, a middle-aged couple is struggling to get their footing as homesteaders. Mable and Jack fled Pennsylvania in an attempt to escape their enduring sorrow over the stillbirth of their only child ten years prior. The couple is loving, but lonely on their own, their fondest wish having never been fulfilled.

One night, in an unusual fit of whimsy, the two fashion a snow girl, detailed down to the berry juice that stains her lips and a hand-knit scarf and mittens. The next morning, the sculpture is reduced to a lump of snow; the scarf and mittens are nowhere to be found. But over the next several days, both Jack and Mable spot a small, blonde girl at the edge of the woods near their home, on her own in the harsh environment. They see footprints in the snow. No one seems to know of a child in the area. No one seems to believe in a child in the area. But eventually Jack and Mable forge a relationship with this almost feral and quite possibly otherworldly child.

And that is the beginning of an exquisite and truly magical tale. Gently, gently the tale expands. An Alaskan herself, Ivey brings her landscape to life, in all its wintery beauty. Her use of language is likewise beautiful. Her characters are understated. Their lives are hard. But she takes the time to allow them to develop and show all of their subtle colors. New friends bring new life to this damaged couple, and do much to lighten and enliven the tale. The story unfolds in unexpected directions, and I kept changing my mind about whether I was reading realism or magical realism. I never knew how the tale would end. There was so much potential for both joy and tragedy. Ultimately, The Snow Child was enchanting from start to finish.
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LibraryThing member lamotamant
Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child draws upon the Russian fairytale of Snegurochka, also known as the Snow Maiden. In his 1869 The Poetic Outlook on Nature by the Slavs, Alexander Afanasyev includes the story of Snegurochka (Snegurka). In this version an elderly, childless couple build a child of snow that comes to life. This myth is mirrored in Ivey's Snow Child where, in the harsh Alaskan frontier of the 1920's, an elderly, childless couple struggle to stake their claim amidst disconnection, disappointment, and grief.

In the glint of freshly fallen snow Jack and Mabel build a snow girl. Inspired by raw emotion and unmet dreams, snow is carved and adorned by the couple. Later, the snow girl lying crumbled, the gloves and scarf are to be seen on a girl running into the woods. Tracks lead from the remains of the couple's creation and the question floats as if caught in a flurry, who is this girl?

Inhabiting the realm between folklore and realism, Ivey's work caresses its readers with the chill and severity of Alaskan snow, the sharp edges of piercing grief, and the warm enticement of myth and mystery. The harshness of homesteading the wilds of Alaska and the interplay between the fragility and strength possessed by Ivey's characters are well developed. The story is simply built and enjoyable.

Though there were a couple parts that fell to a meander throughout, I was caught by Ivey's use of the visual. The rural and wild Alaskan frontier is as much a main character of The Snow Child as Faina, Jack, Mabel, or Esther. Just as their relationships build and bloom with each other, so do we see each character's relationship with the frontier develop and it was captivating to see the differences and similarities. I came away from the book pleased with both the story as well as Ivey's respect for the nature of Alaska's wilds and the struggle and appreciation experienced by those that settled there.
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LibraryThing member JayWarner
A haunting story, rich in language and imagery. Easily the best book I have read this year. The story centers on a childless couple who decide to homestead in Alaska in the 1920s to escape the life they knew back east. Along the way a fairy story, a child who is real but not real, and the friendship of neighbors collide to give this novel a depth that will keep you reading beginning to end. Enchanting and enchanted. I like novels with a historical slant and this one does not disappoint. It captures life in Alaska in those early pioneering days perfectly. The difficulties in dealing with the harsh climate, trying to grow things, trying to make a living, trying to feed a family, dealing with mid-winter loneliness, and simple transportation all intertwine with the elements of Arctic winter and Arctic spring. A very satisfying read.… (more)




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