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Published: Feb 2012
Genres: Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Alaska, 1920: a brutal
place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and
Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he struggling to maintain the
farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity
during the first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next
morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young 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 and
somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel come
to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a
fairy tale, they begin to love her as their own daughter. But in this
beautiful, violent territory things are rarely as they appear, and what
they eventually learn about Faina will transform them all.
This book is magic. That's what I was thinking while reading it. I took a curious bite out of the poison apple, and I was in this land no longer. I was in Alaska, in the home of Jack and Mabel. I felt their quiet desperation, the wordless pain that laced every look.
The way that this couple was shown to me is by far my favourite thing about this book. Though the book often felt like a dream, their lives ruled by sadness was very clear. It was depicted in such a simple way. In the absence of things, of laughter, of noise, of children. The nothingness took up all the space and pressed against me.
Then comes Faina, the snow child. Who fills this absence with a certain kind of magic. Whether it is a literal magic or just the magic of her presence, we are never quite sure. This is how she is portrayed throughout the book. As a mystery, something we can never quite grasp. Which adds immensely to the magical feeling of the snow child.
All of this is set in the diverse and often contrasting land of Alaska. Where it goes from shivering nights to sweat filled days. And where quiet mornings are interrupted by neighbours bursting with energy.
I woke somewhat abruptly from reading it. Wondering if I would ever know completely the mysteries of Faina. If her magic would ever be explained. Smiling at the sweet memory of Jack and Mabel. Wishing that I would fall asleep, so I could return back again.
The Snow Child made me an instant fan of Eowyn Ivey, and I look forward to what she has to offer next.