Wednesday, December 19, 2012

the snow child

This is a beautifully told story. It is the story of a childless married couple, too old to have children now, who live alone together in the wilderness of Alaska in the 1920s. He farms and she maintains the homestead. Their life is lonely and sad until, one day, it snows and they build a little snow child in their front yard. Soon after that, they begin seeing a girl. A blond, wild, shy, sprite of a girl that runs through the trees with a red fox. She is more of an animal than a girl, and it takes a lot of patience and persistence before the girl allows them to welcome her into their hearts. Their names are Jack and Mabel, and the girl changes their lives and makes them feel like the parents they were never able to be.

Their story echoes that of a Russian fairy tale that Mabel read as a girl. In it (just like in the novel) an old couple without children constructs a girl out of snow. And suddenly afterwards, a girl appears. In the years that follow, the girl always comes with the snow and leaves when spring arrives. Mabel remembers the story and, when the girl arrives at their cabin, seems to believe in it. Her convictions cause her neighbors and husband to believe she might be mad with "cabin fever."

As I said, the story is beautifully told. The prose is rhythmic, lovely, and filled with the spirit of Alaska. The author is a native Alaskan and it shows in her knowledge of the freezing winters, the rampant wildlife, and the strength of the people who lived there alone decades ago. I loved the prose and the story was magical and unique. Plus, it was perfect for a good Christmastime read.

However, I also think that the story was simple enough that it didn't deserve 386 pages. It's an interesting story, certainly, but 386 pages is a little excessive. Not to mention the fact that the plot of the novel is revealed pretty early on in the story of the Russian folk tale that Mabel remembers from her childhood (so there are no great surprises or revelations).

I originally gave this 4 stars, thinking that it was more of a 3.6 and I would round up. But I've decided since that it's more of a 3.4, and should be rounded down. Although I thought it was beautifully done, it wasn't a novel that I really connected with or loved. I think it will resonate more with older women and mothers who can really relate to Mabel, the main character. Sometimes the book felt a little old to me, just because of Mabel and her personality. I did love Jack (her husband) and the snow girl, but the narrator for the majority of the story is Mabel and I just couldn't connect with her and her greatest desire (a child to love).

I would definitely recommend this book to older women, and maybe some younger readers too. Mostly I just hope that Ivey continues to write because I would love to read her next novel.

TITLE: The Snow Child
AUTHOR: Eowyn Ivey
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 February 2012
DATE FINISHED: 18 December 2012
VERDICT: 3/5 stars. Beautifully written but not meant for me.



  1. Fantastic review - I've heard lots of good things about this one. Another one for my wish list!

    Irene Jennings of Tony Lama Mens Boots

  2. Wow, this sounds fantastic. I'm not exactly the type who likes to rough it, but the human element against the harsh surroundings makes this so interesting. It's going right on the TBR list!

    Dwayne Johnston (Seattle DUI Attorneys)


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