Monday, February 20, 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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.(synopsis from Goodreads)

The Snow Child is Eowyn Ivey debut novel and it is absolutely breathtaking.  Set in 1920’s Alaska, and based on a Russian fairytale this lyrical tale stole my heart. Ivey expertly crafts characters and paints a world that immediately draws you in. Set against the harsh and beautiful landscape of Alaska and laced with magic, hope, and fairy dust; I will never look at snow the same way again.

Jack and Mabel have tried unsuccessfully to have children. After Mabel delivers a stillborn, she is eager to get away, and in their early forty’s they decide to accept a government issued homestead in Alaska.  Life is hard as Jack builds their home and then clears the land for farming. Mabel cooks, cleans and sews but this isn’t the life she imagined. She pictures herself helping Jack farm, but he cannot fathom his wife working in the fields.  Mabel is uncomfortable around people and especially children, but Jack takes her to meet some of their closets neighbors.  They arrive at the home of George, Esther, and their three sons.  Mabel quickly finds them to be delightful, generous and experienced homesteaders.  Ester is a true woman of wild Alaska. She wears woman’s britches and can cook a moose.  Ester is able to draw Mabel out, and the two chat like hens in a coup. Mabel is feeling renewed and hopeful, when the first snow fall occurs. She heads out into the yard and when she sees Jack she lobs a snowball at him. A snowball fight quickly follows and they are soon laughing like children. Mabel feeling young and giddy, asks Jack to build a snowman with her. Despite some reluctance he falls into helping and even carves a beautiful face on the snowman.  They realize it looks like a girl, and slowly add a dress of snow, some straw for hair and a pair of red mittens.  After, they go inside, for the first time in a long time, they lay together as man and wife.  When they awake, the snowman is gone and so are the mittens.  Around the base and leading into the woods are a child’s footprints. They see glimpses of a child watching them in the woods, but she runs off when they pursue her. Jack leaves things for her on a log. Winter’s in Alaska can be bleak and dark and sometimes play tricks on the mind. When Mabel tries to tell Ester about the child, she is met with skepticism, even Jack won’t omit what he is seeing.  Mabel remembers a tale about a snow child that her father told her and quickly writes to her sister asking her to check the attic for the book.  When the book arrives, Mabel becomes even more convinced that they created a snow child.  Jack believes otherwise, but knows, despite how crazy it seems, that the child belongs to the woods.

The snow child known as Faina befriends them and the tale that unfolds is magical, touching and at times heartbreaking.  Ivey surrounds Faina’s existence in doubt, even using punctuation to cast mystery. When Faina speaks there are no quotation marks.  The tale spans over many years and shares the hardships and joys of the Alaskan frontier.  Ivey’s pen paints images and brings nature to life, while weaving magic throughout.  The characters have such depth, and I connected with each of them. I came to love them and Faina. At one point I set the book down, unsure if I could handle an unhappy ending. My curiosity won out, and I was soon swept back to Alaska, soaking up every word.  I can tell you that I am glad that I did and that this is a book I will reread again and again.

I highly recommend The Snow Child to everyone.  Fans of historical fiction and fairy tale retellings are sure to delight in this novel.  This is the type of book that you will want to share and gift to others. The Snow Child is available in paper and eBook formats.  I have added Ivey to my list of must read authors.

I want to thank netGalley and Little Brown and Company for providing this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.

I gave this novel 5 coffee cups out of 5. 

Author's website:Eowyn Ivey

Pick up your copy here:
Barnes and Noble:The Snow Child
 Amazon here:The Snow Child: A Novel
The Book Depository: The Snow Child

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At February 20, 2012 at 9:50 AM , Blogger debbie h said...

Great review Kimba, this one looks like a keeper and an addition to my oh so stressed pile :)

At February 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM , Blogger Lupdilup said...

Oh Kimba this sounds wonderful!! In fact I just added to my TBR list.
Thank you for this fantastic and very persuasive review.

At February 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM , Blogger Debbie@ I Heart YA Books said...

Great review Kimba, Thank you so much for following me on my blog! :) Definitely followed you back :)

At February 20, 2012 at 12:03 PM , Blogger Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf said...

Oh good grief! Yet another to add to my TBR. This one sounds amazing!


At February 20, 2012 at 12:39 PM , Blogger Kate said...

Sounds intriguing! I hadn't heard of this one before, but I might have to give it a try!

At February 20, 2012 at 1:01 PM , Blogger Maja said...

I have yet to read a single negative review of this book. I waited to be sure before adding it to my tbr because I have far too many books there, but you convinced me. :)
Great review!

Maja @ The Nocturnal Library

At February 20, 2012 at 1:02 PM , Blogger Rebecca (Kindle Fever) said...

Oh my gosh! This one sounds so, SO good! I really hope I get it, or I'll have to order it myself, because I can't wait to read it myself. Thanks for recommending it!

At February 20, 2012 at 1:25 PM , Blogger Lisa O. said...

Lovely review, it sounds amazing. I love books where the scenery plays a fundamental role and this might be just right up my alley!

Lisa O. @ The Nocturnal Library

At February 20, 2012 at 4:31 PM , Blogger Giselle said...

I've been seeing lots of positive reviews on this one I hadn't even heard of it before a couple of weeks ago I'm really getting curious. Wonderful review Kimberly!

At February 20, 2012 at 6:50 PM , Blogger Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

This looks like a really, really good historical fiction!

At February 20, 2012 at 9:24 PM , Blogger Respiring Thoughts said...

This one sounds super good! I've seen it around on Goodreads but never got around to reading the synopsis. Thanks for sharing your review!

Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

At February 21, 2012 at 9:06 AM , Blogger Dalene @ A Date with a Book said...

These books of adult fairytales (retelling) are intriguing to me. I have several already on my TBR and will definitely be adding this one. Thanks for a great review :)

At February 21, 2012 at 7:34 PM , Blogger roro said...

Oh my gosh! This one sounds so, SO good. so magical . the cover is so cosy and magically lyrical

rad review kim


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