Title: The Snow Child
Author: Eowyn Ivey
Published by Headline Publishing, 2012
How I discovered this book: I can’t resist a fairy tale retelling. So, when a friend of mine told to me that I needed to read The Snow Child ASAP, it was only a matter of going to the closest library, borrow it and start reading. And I’m glad I did it because this book is incredibly amazing. Check out her delicious Tumblr dedicated to books. http://joanalovesbooks.tumblr.com/
Review: This book is a retelling of a Russian folk tale, Snegurochka or The Snow Maiden, which is given in full at the end of the novel. In The Snow Child, we meet a childless old couple – Mabel and Jack – who decided to start a new life as farmers in Alaska. However, this was not the fresh beginning this couple was expecting and desperately needing. The weight of losing their newborn child still overwhelmed and suffocated them. This terrible pain along with the harshness and wilderness of an untamed territory like Alaska caused both Mabel and Jack to drift apart and shut themselves in a suffering private world of their own. Until one snowy night, when they found themselves lighthearted and smiling like they haven’t in a long, long time…A night when they decided to make a little girl out of snow. They formed her together, snow piece by snow piece, dressed her with a scarf and red mittens, and loved her as the child she could have been to them, if she were real.
On the next morning, the snow child is gone, but they glimpse another child running through the woods: a blond-haired girl. A wild, strange and ethereal child named Faina, running on top of the snow with a red-fox. Slowly, Faina starts to be a part of the couple’s life and, before they now it, they are loving this strange little girl (apparently more fairy than human) as if she were their own daughter. I’m not telling you more about the story, because I really don’t want to give you any spoilers and if I say more I’ll start ruining the book for you.
Nevertheless, one of the things about this books that kept me hooked until the last page was the curiosity to know if Faina was indeed a fairy girl or a human girl. Even now, after reading it and knowing the end, I catch myself wondering about this. So, I’m not telling you more. I’ll just say that the book is not an immense boredom repetition of the life of the old couple with the child. Time passes, the child grows and is not always present in the story, the couple struggles to conquer a place in the wilderness of Alaska, and there are other characters for you to relate and love, like their neighbors – George, Esther and their kids.
Mabel’s and Jack’s struggle to make their dream come true, as independent farmers with a homestead in Alaska, is an important part of the book and part of the process of their healing. Also, despite the magical vibe of the story it all comes about to real people struggling through life’s challenges, and Eowyn Ivey does a remarkable job writing them. She managed to write this insightful and compassionate portrait of this couple’s life and what’s it like to live in Alaska. It just makes you want to be there and experience it, despite knowing that it’s a harsh environment.
Overall: This is a story of love and loss, challenges, finding hope and new beginnings. It’s a story that shows you how strong human beings can be, even when they are slapped in the face by destiny or life, over and over again. Somehow, we always find the strength to start over and keep going. It’s a wonderful modern retelling of the original tale, a perfect balance of magical realism, with a bitter-sweet ending that makes it unforgettable. I have no words to tell you how much I actually loved this book. It made me want to draw, can you believe it? It’s the perfect mix of delightful writing and wonderful storytelling. Just go ahead and read it (now!).
Quotes worth mentioning:
“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?”