The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

 

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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4 Comments

  1. Did you enjoy this story?

    I really loved it. The blurry lines between it being a fairy tale and something that could theoretically happen made me smile. While I didn’t grow up in Alaska, I did spent part of my childhood in a town right next to the Rocky Mountains.

    There were times when all of the snow that got dumped onto our community really did make the world feel like a magical place. Also, there’s nothing like being snowed in to change one’s perspective of the world!

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  2. I adore this book and can see how well it could sweep you from a California heatwave into an Alaskan winter. And if the heat continues there is always Ivey’s second, equally wonderful Alaska-set book to look forward to: To the Bright Edge of the World.

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