Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey

This is a terrific book. Jack and Mabel left behind their comfortable lives for the adventure and excitement of settling their own homestead in 1920s Alaska. But after a few brutal winters, the reality of their decision is crippling them both—Jack can't seem to find a way to success despite all of his physical efforts, and Mabel is depressed and lonely, still longing for the child they lost a number of years before. They both worry they might not survive the coming winter, for different reasons.

One night, in a surprising burst of merriment, the couple makes a snow child. The next morning, the snow child is gone—as are the mittens and hat they gave it—but they start glimpsing a young, blonde-haired girl running through the snowy woods, a red fox at her side. At first they both believe the girl, named Faina, is a figment of their imaginations, but she begins showing up at their cabin with gifts of berries and freshly killed game. Yet each night she disappears as mysteriously as she arrives, refusing to stay with the couple, and when the weather turns warmer each year, she disappears for good. As the years pass, Jack and Mabel learn that you can love something that doesn't belong to you, and realize the amazing gifts that Faina has given them, even as circumstances change beyond their wildest dreams.

I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I really loved it. A story of how a couple survives against the odds, both physical and emotional, and how to get past the things that remain unsaid, the book is both grounded in realism and magical at the same time. While certainly there is some level of imagination you must have to accept Faina's character, she brings far more to the story than I expected she would. Eowyn Ivey does a wonderful job of storytelling and makes you feel for all of the characters, even those who seem more taciturn than others. This is a very well-written book that definitely surprises you.

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