The Snow Child

The Snow Child

by Eowyn Ivey


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316175661
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 11/06/2012
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 28,569
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. This is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Wolverine River, Alaska 1920

Chapter 1
Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbor children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind and in their place there would be silence.
She had imagined that in the Alaska wilderness silence would be peaceful, like snow falling at night, air filled with promise but no sound, but that was not what she found. Instead, when she swept the plank floor, the broom bristles scritched like some sharp-toothed shrew nibbling at her heart. When she washed the dishes, plates and bowls clattered as if they were breaking to pieces. The only sound not of her making was a sudden "caw, cawww" from outside. Mabel wrung dishwater from a rag and looked out the kitchen window in time to see a raven flapping its way from one leafless birch tree to another. No children chasing each other through autumn leaves, calling each other's names. Not even a solitary child on a swing.

There had been the one. A tiny thing, born still and silent. Ten years past, but even now she found herself returning to the birth to touch Jack's arm, stop him, reach out. She should have. She should have cupped the baby's head in the palm of her hand and snipped a few of its tiny hairs to keep in a locket at her throat. She should have looked into its small face and known if it was a boy or a girl, and then stood beside Jack as he buried it in the Pennsylvania winter ground. She should have marked its grave. She should have allowed herself that grief.
It was a child after all, although it looked more like a fairy changeling. Pinched face, tiny jaw, ears that came to narrow points; that much she had seen and wept over because she knew she could have loved it still.

Mabel was too long at the window. The raven had since flown away above the treetops. The sun had slipped behind a mountain, and the light had fallen flat. The branches were bare, the grass yellowed gray. Not a single snowflake. It was as if everything fine and glittering had been ground from the world and swept away as dust.
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.
She entered last winter blind, not knowing what to expect in this new, hard land. Now she knew. By December, the sun would rise just before noon and skirt the mountaintops for a few hours of twilight before sinking again. Mabel would move in and out of sleep as she sat in a chair beside the woodstove. She would not pick up any of her favorite books; the pages would be lifeless. She would not draw; what would there be to capture in her sketchbook? Dull skies, shadowy corners. It would become harder and harder to leave the warm bed each morning. She would stumble about in a walking sleep, scrape together meals and drape wet laundry around the cabin. Jack would struggle to keep the animals alive. The days would run together, winter's stranglehold tightening.
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 trees on the summer evening she fell in love, and the way dawn threw itself across the cow pond and turned the water to light.
Mabel could not remember the last time she caught such a flicker.
She gathered Jack's work shirts and sat down to mend. She tried not to look out the window. If only it would snow. Maybe that white would soften the bleak lines. Perhaps it could catch some bit of light and mirror it back into her eyes.
But all afternoon the clouds remained high and thin, the wind ripped dead leaves from the tree branches, and daylight guttered like a candle. Mabel thought of the terrible cold that would trap her alone in the cabin, and her breathing turned shallow and rapid. She stood to pace the floor. She silently repeated to herself, "I cannot do this. I cannot do this."
There were guns in the house, and she had thought of them before. The hunting rifle beside the bookshelf, the shotgun over the doorway, and a revolver that Jack kept in the top drawer of the bureau. She had never fired them, but that wasn't what kept her. It was the violence and unseemly gore of such an act, and the blame that would inevitably come in its wake. People would say she was weak in mind or spirit, or Jack was a poor husband. And what of Jack? What shame and anger would he harbor?
The river, though -- that was something different. Not a soul to blame, not even her own. It would be an unfortunate misstep. People would say, if only she had known the ice wouldn't hold her. If only she'd known its dangers.

Afternoon descended into dusk, and Mabel left the window to light an oil lamp on the table, as if she was going to prepare dinner and wait for Jack's return, as if this day would end like any other, but in her mind she was already following the trail through the woods to the Wolverine River. The lamp burned as she laced her leather boots, put her winter coat on over her house dress, and stepped outside. Her hands and head were bare to the wind.
As she strode through the naked trees, she was both exhilarated and numb, chilled by the clarity of her purpose. She did not think of what she left behind, but only of this moment in a sort of black-and-white precision. The hard clunk of her boot soles on the frozen ground. The icy breeze in her hair. Her expansive breaths. She was strangely powerful and sure.
She emerged from the forest and stood on the bank of the frozen river. It was calm except for the occasional gust of wind that ruffled her skirt against her wool stockings and swirled silt across the ice. Farther upstream, the glacier-fed valley stretched half a mile wide with gravel bars, driftwood, and braided shallow channels, but here the river ran narrow and deep. Mabel could see the shale cliff on the far side that fell off into black ice. Below, the water would be well over her head.
The cliff became her destination, though she expected to drown before she reached it. The ice was only an inch or two thick, and even in the depths of winter no one would dare to cross at this treacherous point.
At first her boots caught on boulders, frozen in the sandy shore, but then she staggered down the steep bank and crossed a small rivulet where the ice was thin and brittle. She broke through every other step to hit dry sand beneath. Then she crossed a barren patch of gravel and hiked up her skirt to climb over a driftwood log, faded by the elements.
When she reached the river's main channel, where water still coursed down the valley, the ice was no longer brittle and white but instead black and pliant, as if it had only solidified the night before. She slid her boot soles onto the surface and nearly laughed at her own absurdity ? to be careful to not slip even as you prayed to fall through. She was several feet from safe ground when she allowed herself to stop and peer down between her boots. It was like walking on glass. She could see granite rocks beneath the moving, deep-turquoise water. A yellow leaf floated by, and she imagined herself swept alongside it and briefly looking up through the remarkably clear ice. Before the water filled her lungs, would she be able to see the sky?
Here and there, bubbles as large as her hand were frozen in white circles, and in other places large cracks ran through. She wondered if the ice was weaker at those points, and if she should seek them out or avoid them. She set her shoulders, faced straight ahead, and walked without looking down.
When she crossed the heart of the channel, the cliff face was almost within arm's length, the water was a muffled roar, and the ice gave slightly beneath her. Against her will, she glanced down, and what she saw terrified her. No bubbles. No cracks. Only bottomless black, as if the night sky were under her boots. She shifted her weight to take another step toward the cliff, and there was a crack, a deep, resonant pop like a massive Champagne bottle being uncorked. Mabel spread her feet wide and her knees trembled. She waited for the ice to give way, for her body to plunge into the river. Then there was another thud, a whoompf, and she was certain the ice slumped beneath her boots, but in millimeters, nearly imperceptible except for the awful sound.
She waited and breathed, and the water didn't come. The ice bore her. She slid her feet slowly, first one, then the other, again and again, a slow shuffle until she stood where ice met cliff. Never had she imagined she would be here, on the far side of the river. She put her bare palms to the cold shale, then the entire length of her body, until her forehead was pressed to it and she could smell the stone, ancient and damp.
Its cold began to seep into her, so she lowered her arms to her sides, turned from the cliff face, and began the journey back the way she had come. Her heart thudded in her throat. Her legs were unsteady. She wondered if now, as she made her way home, she would break through to her death.
As she neared solid ground, she wanted to run to it, but the ice was too slick beneath her boots, so she slid as if ice-skating and then stumbled up the bank. She gasped and coughed and nearly laughed, as if it had all been a lark, a mad dare. Then she bent with her hands on her thighs and tried to steady herself.
When she slowly straightened, the land was vast before her. The sun was setting down the river, casting a cold pink hue along the white-capped mountains that framed both sides of the valley. Upriver, the willow shrubs and gravel bars, the spruce forests and low-lying poplar stands, swelled to the mountains in a steely blue. No fields or fences, homes or roads; not a single living soul as far as she could see in any direction. Only wilderness.
It was beautiful, Mabel knew, but it was a beauty that ripped you open and scoured you clean so that you were left helpless and exposed, if you lived at all. She turned her back to the river and walked home.

The lantern was still burning when she returned; the kitchen window glowed as she approached the cabin, and when she opened the door and stepped inside, warmth and flickering light overcame her. Everything was unfamiliar and golden. She had not expected to return here.
It seemed she was gone hours, but it was not yet six in the evening and Jack hadn't come in. She took off her coat and went to the woodstove, letting the heat sink painfully into her hands and feet. Once she could open and close her fingers, she took out pots and pans, marveling that she was fulfilling such a mundane task. She added wood to the stove, cooked dinner, and then sat straight-backed at the rough-hewn table with her hands folded in her lap. A few minutes later, Jack came through the door, stomped his boots and dusted straw from his wool coat.
Certain he would somehow know what she had survived, she watched and waited. He rinsed his hands in the basin, sat across from her and lowered his head. "Bless this food, Lord," he mumbled. "Amen."
She set a potato on each of their plates beside boiled carrots and red beans. Neither of them spoke. There was only the scraping of knives and forks against plates. She tried to eat, but could not force herself. Words lay like granite boulders in her lap and when at last she spoke, each one was heavy and burdensome and all she could manage. "I went to the river today," she said.
He did not lift his head. She waited for him to ask why she would do such a thing. Maybe then she could tell him.
Jack jabbed at the carrots with his fork, then swabbed the beans with a slice of bread. He gave no indication he had heard her.
"It's frozen all the way across to the cliffs," she said in a near whisper. Her eyes down, her breath shallow, she waited, but there was only Jack's chewing, his fork at his plate.
Mabel looked up and saw his wind-burned hands and frayed cuffs, the crow's feet that spread at the corners of his down-turned eyes. She couldn't remember the last time she had touched that skin, and the thought ached like loneliness in her chest. Then she spotted a few strands of silver in his reddish-brown beard. When had they appeared? So he, too, was graying. Each of them fading away without the other's notice.
She pushed food here and there with her fork. She glanced at the lantern hanging from the ceiling and saw shards of light stream from it. She was crying. For a moment she sat and let the tears run down either side of her nose until they were at the corners of her mouth. Jack continued to eat, his head down. She stood and took her plate of food to the small kitchen counter. Turned away, she wiped her face with her apron.
"That ice isn't solid yet," Jack said from the table. "Best to stay off of it."
Mabel swallowed, cleared her throat.
"Yes. Of course," she said.
She busied herself at the counter until her eyes were clear, then returned to the table and ladled more carrots onto Jack's plate.
"How is the new field?" she asked. "It's coming." He forked potato into his mouth, then wiped it with the back of his hand.
"I'll get the rest of the trees cut and skidded in the next few days," he said. "Then I'll burn some more of the stumps out."
"Would you like me to come and help? I could tend the stump fires for you."
"No. I'll manage."

That night in bed, she had a heightened awareness of him, of the scent of straw and spruce boughs in his hair and beard, the weight of him on the creaky bed, the sound of his slow, tired breaths. He lay on his side, turned away from her. She reached out, thinking to touch his shoulder, but instead lowered her arm and lay in the darkness staring at his back.
"Do you think we'll make it through winter?" she asked.
He didn't answer. Perhaps he was asleep. She rolled away and faced the log wall.
When he spoke, Mabel wondered if it was grogginess or emotion that made his voice gravelly.
"We don't have much choice, do we?"


Five Questions for Eowyn Ivey, Author of The Snow Child
How did you discover the fairy tale that inspired The Snow Child?
I work as a bookseller in Alaska, and one night I was shelving books when I came across a children's illustrated version of the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka. It caught my eye in part because it was illustrated by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. As I read through it quickly there in the store, it was like a revelation - a fairy tale set in a snowy landscape that could be my own backyard! Over the next months, I became obsessed with Snegurochka. I abandoned another novel I had been working on. I began uncovering the many versions of the snow maiden that have been told over hundreds of years and portrayed in Russian lacquer paintings, children's books, even an opera and ballet. I knew this was a story I was meant to tell.
How much did your own life in Alaska influence your writing of the novel?
In many ways, we share some day-to-day similarities with the main characters. My husband, two daughters, and I live in a relatively rural area of Alaska, we raise a vegetable garden and chickens, we hunt moose and caribou for meat, and we gather wild berries. All this saved me a lot of research as I wrote The Snow Child - I know what it's like to live through a dark Alaska winter, to eat moose and potatoes for dinner, to make wild berry jam. The difference is that if we fail at these endeavors, we have other options. We have credit cards and grocery stores, careers, and the assistance of family. As I wrote The Snow Child, I had to imagine what it would be like to be in the Alaska wilderness with no safety nets, to be entirely dependent on the land itself.
Did you know when you began writing The Snow Child how it would end?
It seems strange, but no. In fact, during much of the time I was writing it, I wanted it to end in an entirely different way. I kept considering the different versions of the fairy tale, with their different outcomes, just as Mabel does in the story. I assumed that as the creator of the novel, I would be able to choose what happened. But instead the characters and the themes set the story on a trajectory of its own. As far as the writing process, the last chapters came very quickly. I knew they were right. But, at the same time, I found it emotionally challenging.
Are you working on another novel? What is it about?
I have started my next novel. Like The Snow Child it will be set in historical Alaska with some fantastical elements. But this story will be more epic in scope and more adventurous. I was awarded a grant to research the novel, so my husband and I spent a week floating a rugged section of the Copper River here in Alaska. It was an amazing experience - we had seals swimming up to our raft, glaciers calving around us, and brown bears watching us from shore. So far, writing the next novel has been a lot of fun!
How important have books been in your life?
If I was forced to choose only one form of entertainment for the rest of my life, it would be books - over movies or TV, music or art or theater, all of which I enjoy also. For as long as I can remember, the written word has been a part of my consciousness. My mom, Julie LeMay, is a poet who read to me constantly when I was a little girl. As I got older, I read books to escape to other worlds, to explore and be entertained. Both my parents are avid readers, and my husband used to joke that our house was like a library - books everywhere and everyone reading. As I've gotten older, I realize that books also have the ability to shape our understanding of the world. They inform us and touch us and make us who we are. I think that is what led me to become a bookseller and eventually to write a novel - a desire to contribute in some small way to the world of literature.
Who have you discovered lately?
As a part of a book club, I just read The Housekeeper and the Professor, a novel by Japanese author Yoko Ogawa. It is a deceptively slim (only 190 pages) and quiet book, but one of my favorite recent reads. It's about things I don't usually find interesting - baseball, math - but the way Ogawa writes about these aspects of the story, and her portrayals of her characters, is so tender and moving. Any book that makes me think of mathematics as beautiful and magical has got to be special!
I also just finished The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall. It hasn't been released yet, but my UK publisher sent me an early reading copy. The novel is about a young girl growing up in England and spending her summers in Hungary. Hall places you so firmly in each of these places, it's like going on a travel adventure. But my favorite part of the novel is the twist in the plot - positively stunning!

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The Snow Child 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 381 reviews.
Nathan_Dunbar More than 1 year ago
It's really gratifying to come across a book that evokes the senses to such a degree that its flavor is brought to the palate. Such is the case with Eowyn Ivey's debut novel, The Show Child. Infused with aspects of pine boughs, mountain herbs, woolen mittens and inspired by happenstance, it breathes new life into an old Russian children's tale Ivey stumbled upon in her bookstore. We come to know of aging Jack and Mabel through their childless sorrows, playful intense love and survivalist fortitude all cruxing on a belief in dreams and a touch of magic. Through imagery spun with such crispness as to leave a skiff of snow on your heart and the bite of cold wilderness air in your lungs, it's nearly impossible not to fall deeply into the story of Faina and her enchanted sudden appearance. And I must say, the skill with which Ivey works your emotions, ebbing and flowing like tides with each of Faina's disappearances, belies the fact this is her first book. I found myself really believing Jack, Mabel, Faina and the cast of supportive neighbors--pragmatic George, boisterous Esther and their helpful wide-eyed son Garrett--existed somewhere, somehow. I can only leave you with this: when you bring this book into your world, carve out time to give it your full attention. Then make a space for it on your shelf of favorites, it belongs there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Expertly crafted, beautifully written -- a tale I will long remember, wish the story could go on forever
Icecream18JA More than 1 year ago
This is one book worth marking as a to-read for 2012! Jack and Mabel married a little on the late side and experienced a miscarriage. The sad couple moved to Alaska and tried to bury their unhappiness over their inability to have children. One night, when the two are particularly sad and feeling a little frivolous, they build a snow girl, complete with all of the fixings. The next day, the snow child is gone and footprints are left in her place. The couple do think that this is a little odd, but they must always focus on their own jobs and the event begins to drift from their minds. When the two are going about their business, they begin to see these glimpses of a girl in the woods. It is interesting for the reader to try to decide whether there may be some magic or if the whole event is just a coincidence, the author leaves this up to the readers' imagination. The author manages to convince the reader that the girl is wild, free, and slightly lonely. The young girl, Faina, is certainly a strong main character, but she feels more like a wisp of a character at times-many scenes do not even require her presence, but the reader remembers her nonetheless. The other characters help pull the novel together and move the plot along, they are fun to get to know. The setting was richly described, the author is very good at painting a picture in the readers' mind. The mystery of Faina will remain in the readers' mind long after finishing this book, the mark of a good author is to leave the reader thinking about his/her book long after finishing it. The shift between the real and the magical is barely there, but the reader is always aware of the dividing line, but likely will vacillate between either side. This book is highly recommended to young adult/teen readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful story. Could not put it down and was sad when it ended. It was like taking a trip to the wildernes of Alaska.
JadeWant More than 1 year ago
Vividly described and set in the 1920's, this story’s magic transcends imagination while still giving a realistic look at how hard “homesteading” in Alaska was. This book is jammed full of love, loss, suffering, trust, but also joy. Jack and Mabel need a change. They are missing the child they lost and it is too painful to be around all the bad memories. They make a life-changing decision to move and try to make a life in Alaska away from their tragedy. After a heavy, wet snow they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone but a trail of tiny footsteps lead into the woods. For weeks they catch glimpses of something moving in the woods but both of them think they are imagining things. Then a little girl shows up at their door. The beautiful tale begins. The story doesn't drag anywhere and will hold your attention on every page of this heart-warming novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful story that I will remember and choose to read again and again. The perfect book for a snowy afternoon in front of the fireplace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I truly think this will be a classic. Going to buy the real touchable book to have on my real book shelf. One of the top 10 on my all time fav. List..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a lovely story full of so many emotions. Is Faina a snow fairy or a real child? The author allows you to decide. She fills her story with lots of suspense too, which makes it hard to put the book down. In fact, I felt a sense of sadness when I finished cause I wasn't for it to end.
RudyGem More than 1 year ago
Loved the story. Authors descriptions of the scenes put me right there in Alaska with the characters. Recommend highly.
Rosebolo More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was very usual but kept my attention the entire time. It is sweet & fairytale-like but at the same time has some wonderful lessons about life & family. Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this exceptional tale. Hands down,the best book I've read in a while. Looking forward to future books by Eowyn Ivey, whose name will be renowned after this stunning debut.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very well written, offering the reader a vivid visualization of a rugged Alaska in the 1920's. I could actually feel the cold dampness of the snow and frigid temperatures as the snow child came to life and drifted in and out of Jack and Mabel's lives. Eowyn Ivey described each character with such detail and clarity, that I felt as though I knew them and shared in their struggles with nature, life and the unforgiving landscape of their homestead. George and Esther, along with their boys, were the neighbors who befriended Jack and Mabel and offered such a rich and colorful portrait of what true friendship really is, and is so rare to find. I truly felt as though I got to know the characters in this book and I didn't want it to end. It was such a bittersweet journey of life, love and the undying devotion of people who are intertwined. I hope Eowyn Ivey writes more inspiring books like this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly beautiful book. It touched my heart in so many ways.
autumnbluesreviews More than 1 year ago
What a beautiful tale of love, friendship and adventure in the wild Alaskan frontier. Jack and Mabel a childless middle aged couple left it all behind in the east, including family and friends. Mabel wanted more from life than family get together's and gossip, she wanted to connect with her husband. Although we do not get much detail as to how Jack feels about this move Alaska. There they are, a lonely couple who has only become more estranged amongst themselves. Leading Mabel at times with feelings of desperation at even attempting a conversation with Jack. Mabel worries she has made the wrong choice coming to this wild expansive cold climate that has now left her and Jack barely able to make it through their first winter. But then something magical happens. What are first only footprints in the snow later turn out to be a child. But is she real, a life flesh and blood child, or just a spirit -just a dream? This child named Faina turns the couples life around in ways they could never have imagined. If you believe in fairy tales, if you believe in miracles, if you believe in the innocent love of a child, than this story is for you. I was left breathless at the depictions in this story. The beautiful snow covered mountains, the frozen ponds, the wild flowers, the trees. The hunting and gathering, the way of life in this unforgiving wilderness brings not only changes emotionally, but understanding. The author Ivey brings forth orientation, in a way that anyone who does not live in this type of desolate, expansive, unrelenting climate, feels as if they are truly there. Running through the snow, watching the frozen tundra melt and become a muddy muck in the spring, picking berries and setting traps for wild game. The Snow Child is one of those books one cherishes, sets on the bookshelf and reads year after year, by the crackling of a fireplace. A book one does not lend, for the fear it may never be returned.
jmccannAZ More than 1 year ago
I finished reading The Snow Child a few days ago, and I'm still thinking about it. I loved it. It's sad and sweet and magical and lush. This story pulls at your heart in so many ways. The author does an amazing job of developing the characters so that you get to know each of them, and grow to love them. I didn't want the book to end, to say good-bye. Ivey' description of the 1920s Alaska wilderness is also amazing and the novel is worth the read for that alone.
Annamck More than 1 year ago
This was a great book to read from beginning to end. I was sad the story had to end, it was that good! I loved the way she incorporated an old fairy tale into it. She also had great characters you could connect with. This book won't disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of those books that will leave u daydreaming long after the book is read. Book is full of vivid descriptions, its like being there in person! Such a great read! Loved it!
tori_g More than 1 year ago
My main thoughts on this book: - The novel has a sweet, almost fairytale-like plot but is still grounded. - It is very well written. The author took me there emotionally and physically. This is one of very few books that kept me reaching for the kleenex out of sadness at times and joy at others. - My only complaint is that it did feel slow at times. It's a fairly long read, and I had to push myself through the middle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AmeKole on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book very engaging. I loved the premise of taking a fairy tale and bringing it forward into a more "realistic" and detailed story. I feel like the author did a wonderful job of dancing the line between fantasy and reality. It made you want to believe that this would be possible. I found it to be well written and evoked the full range of emotion; the melancholy and loneliness of the Alaskan wilderness as well as the excitement and magic of the "Snow child" in her repeated appearance. I would definitely recommend this book.
l_manning on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jack and Mabel have moved to the wilds of Alaska. It's supposed to be something they do together; something that brings them closer. Mabel feels the opposite happening. All she can feel is despair. One day though, she sees something amazing. A little girl is flitting through the snow. Soon Mabel and Jack take the child, Faina, in to help take care of her. Jack and Mabel grow to love Faina, and they raise her as their own. What it seems nature has given though can just as quickly be taken away. Not before Mabel and Jack see their own lives drastically change though.This book was kind of amazing. The way the author draws you in and makes you feel Mabel's loneliness is amazing. I could feel every bit of what Mabel was feeling. The ability to describe the Alaska wilderness was fantastic. You get a great feel for just how stark it was out there. Every emotion felt by the characters is shared by you as a reader. I felt strongest for Mabel. At least Jack got to go out and work. For the most part Mabel was confined near the house, and this lead to some deep depression on her part. When she sees the snow child, you can feel her start to change. As Faina interacts with Jack and Mabel more, you feel a lightness being brought into her character that was not there before.This book manages to be heartwarming and heartbreaking at once. That's a fairly fine line, but the author does a great job of capturing both. I felt so touched by everything, and the ending was both somewhat happy and hard for me to read. I think this is a marvelous book, and one that many people will enjoy reading. It is definitely worth putting on your "must read" lists!Galley provided for review.
eembooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This first novel is like a summer rain gently lifting wilted flowers. In 1920 for homesteaders Jack and Mable it¿s the Alaskan snow and a child named Faina easing the gloom and bareness of their lives. Is this a fairy tale who knows? Warning! There are a few somewhat grizzly animal scenes. August 2012
elliepotten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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!
gaskella on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This lovely modern fairytale is that rarity - a book that lives up to the hype. There have been many reviews over the past couple of months and without exception I think, all have been glowing and gushing about this book - I'll now add mine to the collection...Jack and Mabel are homesteaders in their fifties, having retreated into the Alaskan wilderness to lose themselves after the death of their baby, who was still born. Both are still suffering, Mabel especially, mostly being confined to the cabin while Jack works the land. Each of them is lost in their own sadness. Then one day it snows, and in a moment of uncharacteristic playfulness, they have a snowball fight, and build a snow figure which Jack carves into the shape of a young girl. The next morning, the snow girl is gone, and there are small footprints going into the forest. Then, over days and months that follow, they see fleeting glimpses of a girl running between the trees, followed by a red fox. I won't tell any more - I'll leave you to read it if you wish and make up your own minds about Faina the snow girl - or not, for the author is absolutely brilliant at making her seem like a feral child surviving in the wilderness at one moment, and then an ethereal sprite born of snowflakes, in an instant. Is gaining the unconditional love of would-be adoptive parents the transformational force that occurs in so many fairy-tales, where a magical being changes into a human one? Ivey's light yet sure touch with these possibilities make reading this novel a magical experience. The Snow Child of was inspired by Arthur Ransome's re-telling of the Russian folktale, Little Daughter of the Snow (from Old Peter's Russian Tales), which is included at the back of this novel. Ransome's version is tragic, and Mabel is familiar with it - a book of Russian fairytales having been a childhood favourite.Jack and Mabel are wonderful characters. They have to endure many hardships to make a go of it as homesteaders, and they are not just physical ones. Before Faina's arrival it would be hard to see them surviving for long on their own in this wintery wilderness. It is wonderful to see them come into bloom again after years of dormancy - I was so happy for them, yet knowing the fate of Ransome's snowgirl, scared too.Contrasting with Jack and Mabel are their nearest neighbours, the Bensons, who live a good wagon ride away. Esther is a big-hearted woman, and provides Mabel with much relief from her cabin fever and luckily the two women get on like houses on fire. The Benson's youngest son, Garrett, will also play a part in this story. The other star of this novel is the landscape of Alaska itself. We really feel that we're there back in the 1920s with Jack and Mabel, experiencing the long, cold winters, the frozen forests, and all too brief spring and summers. Farming may be hard, but nature itself has much to offer if you know where to look for it all year round.I was delighted to see a quote from Ali Shaw, whose latest modern fairy tale I recently read and loved, which reinforced how magical this book was for me. This is a lovely, lovely book, and my first five star one of the year. I hope you'll love it too.
teresa1953 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.