Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child is a warm story based on an old Russian fairytale.  It takes place in the 1920’s where the government was inviting people to tame the Alaskan wilderness.  Mabel and Jack are a childless couple in their 50’s who are looking to escape but both find the homestead to create more challenges than imagined.  They build a snow child their second winter and the next day, a real child appears from the woods.  The story of this child and her role in Mabel and Jack’s lives is heartwarming, inspiring and magical.
There are several themes of the book that are told throughout, including escapism, wilderness, domestication and what really makes a family.  In the end, I was left with a genuine sense of hope and an embrace of change.  As the pages turned, Mabel and Jack dug themselves out of their self-pity and began to not just cultivate the land, but their relationship and love.  In doing so, they learned to take joy in their new home and new friends. 
I really enjoyed the magical elements of the story.  Is the child real?  Is she a manifestation of Mabel and Jack’s grief?  Why does she only come back every winter?  Many of the questions I had about the child, Faina go unanswered but it only enhances the feeling of wonder for the world around us.  Are we trying to tame the wilderness or a part of ourselves that we fear? 
Ivey has a nice way of letting you into the core feelings of the characters without them going into deep emotional conversations.  There’s more unsaid in this book than is written.  Jack’s avoidance and Mabel’s melancholy are only the result of their grief and it’s delightful to see them grow and renew their love for each other.
The only thing about this book that I bugged me was that the original fairytale is told in throughout the story and in the beginning of each part so you kind of have an idea as to what’s coming up.  I am one totally against spoilers so I would have liked a little less foreshadowing.   The fairytale plays heavily into Mabel’s actions so I can see the reason for it but it was still disappointed. 
I think this book would appeal to anyone who enjoys a good emotional story about family, love and the unknown.  The writing style is fairly straight forward and is a decent read for all ages.  Very tame, very sweet and very moving. 
I give the Snow Child 4 / 5 stars.

To learn more about Eowyn Ivey, check out her website bio here.  The Snow Child is her literary debut and I will be keeping an eye out for her second book which is titled Shadows on the Wolverine.  No release date as of yet though.

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