Saturday, March 17, 2012

"The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey

Although it seems rather inappropriate to read The Snow Child considering the wonderful atypical 60 degree March weather we're currently having in Pennsylvania (where were you, Ivey, during those blizzards of the past few years?), the book is so engaging and well-crafted that I'd recommend it even for a summer in Mexico.

The Snow Child is loosely inspired by a fairy tale in which a childless couple builds a girl out of snow; when the girl comes alive, they cherish her, but because she is from snow, they cannot keep her forever. In this novel, Jack and Mabel are the childless couple living in Alaska. They have recently escaped to this snowy wilderness and are struggling through their first winter. Feeling giddy one evening, they build a child out of snow, and soon after, they discover a shy and wild young girl, named Faina. Faina comes and goes from their lives, never content to stay for long and never staying through the summer, as Jack and Mabel grow with the Alaskan land.

Though this is not a fast-paced book, I had a hard time putting it down, both because I wanted to see the growth in the relationships between Jack, Mabel, and Faina, and because the book's setting is so rich. I've no romantic notions about Alaska, but Ivey does an excellent job of describing its beauty and danger and the satisfaction that can come from working in such an environment. The snow seems so beautiful when described through the life of Faina, a child of the snow and cold. Faina herself is wonderfully characterized; she's both human and part of the forest, and I loved the other-worldly quality she brings to the practical earthly lives of Jack and Mabel.

There is a small sense of dread throughout the novel, as the reader knows that, like the fairly tale snow child, Faina cannot possibly remain forever. Despite this, the novel is not a sad one, for in loving Faina, Jack and Mabel find love and happiness in other areas too.

Not surprisingly, The Snow Child would be best enjoyed on a cold winter evening, curled up with a blanket and hot chocolate by a fire--but don't put off reading it just because you can't get that atmosphere now.

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