The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Book Review

In Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, Jack and Mabel are a middle-aged married couple who have moved to Alaska in the 1920’s to attempt the successful farming of a homestead. The land is harsh and unforgiving, and though it is of their own choosing, the couple is isolated from family, and have made no friends in the tiny community. They are also increasingly adrift from each other as they struggle to reach a meaningful balance within their troubled and childless marriage. Mabel is still deeply grieving their stillborn infant, and Jack cannot make a go of the homestead unassisted, but tries to when Mabel insists the couple keep to themselves. In the gift of an unexpectedly playful evening, Jack and Mabel create a child in the snow, and are stunned when she seemingly comes to life.

Ivey quickly creates a winning storyline that mixes hard reality and fantasy in this captivating début. The descriptions of the wild Alaskan landscape with its heavy snows, bitter cold and stark beauty mirror elements of the couple’s daily life and relationships. Jack and Mabel are both sympathetic and complex characters and fine writing by Ivey puts the reader firmly in the middle of their marital despair. The pair develop, both together and separately, based on their experiences with Faina (whom they think of as their own daughter), the land and burgeoning relationships with their neighbors, George and Esther. Their lives are changed in surprising ways as they uncover more about the Faina’s mysterious identity, and try to come to terms with her human and supernatural underpinnings. In the end I wasn’t completely sure what was going on with Faina, which was a little distracting, but ultimately the charm and the strengths of this fairytale re-imagined won out over minor confusions and quibbles. Recommended. 

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  1. I always enjoy your reviews, Nicole, and this is no exception. The book sounds captivating. From what you’ve described the author does her job by not only by creating authentic characters but also by developing a setting that draws the reader in. I love that. Adding this to my “to read” list right now. Thanks!

  2. I have so much curiosity about this book, and your review seems to get at the heart of what I am contemplating about this story. What is this little snow girl, and how does she come to be? It sounds as if this is not fully answered in the tale, which is slightly frustrating, but for some reason, this does not deter me from reading the book. I liked your frank and honest review. It’s the first one that I have seen that examines things with a closeness that I appreciate. Thanks, Nicole.

  3. This book sounds interesting and unique. Your review really impressed me and piqued my interest in the book. I’m love the Alaska setting and I’m excited to read the author’s passages depicting Alaska’s landscape. I’m not so sure about the supernatural elements but this book sounds too good to me to let that aspect be an impediment…and I may very well end up liking the supernatural part of the story.

    I also want to read this debut because I like what I’ve read about the author. She has a very interesting, creative life and I think it’s fantastic that she and her husband are teaching their children to live off the land. I’m interested to see if and how her lifestyle translates into her writing.

  4. I love the sound of this book and enjoyed reading on another post how the author was inspired by a children’s book of a similar story. I am looking forward to reading it, it promises to be a great read.