The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow ChildThe Snow Child. Finished 4-21-15, rating 4.25/5, fiction, pub. 2012

Unabridged audio read by Debra Monk.  10.75 hours.

Finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

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. from Goodreads

Whenever I read books set in Alaska, I become immersed in the barren, yet lush and beautiful landscape and this was no different.  Ivey’s words describing Alaska were mesmerizing.  In the beginning, when Mabel and Jack were first learning their way in the new, wild country, the often depressing tone of the story was mirrored by the hard nature of Alaska and I was drawn in.  As the story moved from dark to light, so did the reality of Alaska’s land.

The story was based on a Russian folk tale of the snow child but I wasn’t familiar with it.  This skittish girl who Jack and Mabel, who were still longing for children in middle age, saw more and more frequently was real, or maybe she wasn’t.  In the end, did it matter?

I loved the struggle of living off the land and their outspoken neighbor Esther.  I also loved how the words drew such vivid pictures in my mind that I can still see Alaska in my mind over a week after finishing the book.  The writing wasn’t sparse, but emotions and intentions were described in such a simple way that the story seemed somewhat magical.

Was she a snow child or just a girl?  That’s what kept me reading when the story dragged and the ending was both a surprise and expected.  Not bad for a debut novel, I’d say!

Recommended for anyone looking for something a little different.