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The Snow Child

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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.

423 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 1, 2012

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About the author

Eowyn Ivey

6 books3,268 followers
Eowyn Ivey's first novel, The Snow Child, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and an international bestseller. Her newest novel To the Bright Edge of the World will be released August 2, 2016. Eowyn was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters.

Learn more:
Blog: Letters from Alaska

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5 stars
45,297 (31%)
4 stars
60,493 (42%)
3 stars
28,668 (20%)
2 stars
5,848 (4%)
1 star
1,925 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 17,656 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
April 17, 2019
when i was about one hundred pages from the end of this book, i tugged on greg's sleeve at work, and said, "is this gonna end sad??"

and he refused to answer.

i think that was a good impulse.

because i almost don't wanna review this. this book was such a beautiful journey, and taking place as it does over a number of years, there are naturally high and low points, emotionally.

but i'm not going to tell you how it ends up.

i will tell you that i VERY NEARLY CRIED early on. like page 42-early.i misted, but nothing tumbled out.that is a big deal for me, and from that point on, i was hooked.

i suppose i can give you some brief descriptions, for those of you who strangely don't see the cover and instantly think "must. read."

jack and mabel are a couple who married late(r) in life than typical for the 1920's, suffered a miscarriage, and move to alaska to try their hand at homesteading, as a way of isolating themselves from the constant reminder of their loss, their friends and families with their healthy children, and the sorrow hanging over them. now in their fifties, the idea was that the solitude would heal them, and together, they would build a new life and cleave together with a love stronger than ever.

this didn't exactly pan out, and each of them descends into their own private griefs and the hardships the brutal carelessness of nature presents, and their own inability to communicate further isolates them from any potential for healing.

until one night, when an unexpected levity descends upon them, and they build a snow child together, dressing her in a hat and mittens that they have, and carving the face of a beautiful girl upon her.

the next morning, the snow child, and the clothing, are gone, and there are faint footprints leading away from where the snow child was built.

soon, they start seeing glimpses of a little girl in the woods in the company of a red fox. fleeting, shy, wild.

is this the snow child come to life? is it all a coincidence?? is there magic afoot? is it simply grief-fueled madness? cabin fever? any other explanation?

with the help of their neighbors; including the amazingly plainspoken and badass character of esther, and their elusive snow child, their solitude will lessen, and these questions will be answered, while a beautiful story unfolds.

this book may be based on a fairy tale, but there is no easy magical deus ex machina at work here.the bulk of the book is about survival - whether it be survival from poverty and lack, or from loneliness and loss. it is about the bonds of family, however "family" is necessarily redefined through circumstances,and the painful sacrifices we make for love.

it is a beautiful and mature debut novel, and although i read the ARC, i am definitely going to buy the book when it comes out, because this one is a keeper.

anything else i could say would ruin it. trust me.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
May 22, 2012

I put off reading The Snow Child because it wasn't something I would have chosen for myself without the extremely positive reviews of other goodreads members. If it is not obvious to you from the description alone, then this book is not mostly plot-driven. It's charm is upheld by the characters, the relationships, and the sad, cold mood that seems to permeate the entire novel from open to close. It is the kind of novel that I sometimes have trouble with, the kind not concerned with action or drama, but more subdued and subtle. However, I was fortunate in that the characters held my attention throughout and the relationship between Mabel and Jack carried something simultaneously heart-warming and bittersweet that really spoke to me.

Mabel and Jack are an aging couple that have escaped from their previous reality into the Alaskan wilderness. They struggle to get by with Jack trying desperately to turn the old farm where they live into something that can support them through the harsh winters. But they are also struggling with something that runs much deeper: their childlessness and the memory of the stillborn baby that continues to drive them apart. I loved the relationship between the pair, the way they often felt distanced from one another but still relied on each other for support. It was heart-breaking to picture them sat at their table feeling the absence of a child and unable to discuss it.

There's something about this novel that is just plain sad. Even when nothing particularly sad seems to be happening. It's a tone that the story never shakes and perhaps it is something to do with the description of the freezing and isolated environment that made me feel like I should prepare to burst into tears at any second. I can't say for sure whether this book was supposed to be a lesson in how you cannot run away from your problems, or how bottling things up and shutting people out never works, but I can say that I took a little bit of all of this from the story.

Onto the snow child herself. It could have been an intentional move on the author's part, but I felt constantly distanced from her character; I felt perhaps she was a tool by which the main players' (Mabel and Jack) could be analysed and allowed to grow and develop. This is not so much a criticism as an observation. If you aren't aware of the basic plot outline, Mabel and Jack create a child out of the snow on a winter's night and discover the creation gone the next morning with a single trail of footsteps leading away from where it had stood. Then suddenly they start to spot a young girl roaming the woods, one who is identical to their snow sculpture and they see it as an opportunity to maybe finally have the child they always wanted.

I had been all set to give this book five stars, I really had. The writing is beautiful, the characters interesting, and the relationships touching... but the ending was disappointing. For me, it seemed like an unsatisfactory "is that it, then?" kind of ending that left me expecting some kind of twist from the epilogue that wasn't forthcoming. It wasn't enough to make me change my mind about the rest of the story and I would still highly recommend this book, but it was quite a large fault in an otherwise near-perfect novel.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews603 followers
September 6, 2016
Thank you to the Goodreads community and my friends -- for the comments of inspiration while I was reading this book.

When "The Snow Child" was first released in 2012,
other that adoring the books cover, I was sure this book wasn't for me.
I'm not sure why or what I thought it was -I just 'passed-it-over'. Well, for what's it's worth...I am more than pleasantly surprised to discover how MUCH I LIKE THIS BOOK.
I don't seem to remember 'anyone' telling me it was a page turner.

The blend of myth and naturalism are alluring and fascinating. In all fairness, I was ready for this book. I'm not sure I was 4 years ago. Besides the story itself...It's been a long time since I even thought about the homesteading hardships in Alaska. I took a class on the history and geography of Alaska when I was an under-grad at Cal over 40 years ago. A 'few' memories come back.
My emotions were invested right from the start. Having a 'story' mixed with history often makes me authentically more interested in the history. The descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness were so stunning, that I ended up looking at pictures on the Internet....( brought back memories of when I was in that college class studying Alaska- 'before' computers).

I loved the beginning of this novel--it's what kicked in my momentum of desire to keep reading. I knew nothing about the Russian fairy tale-- "Snegurochka"...the story of 'The Snow Maiden'.... a girl half-human and half-snow. I think it was a great way to tell 'this' story-- it gave me the magical/reality context I needed to enjoy this story more.

Before Faina comes into the story--I felt so much sadness for Mabel and Jack, I could imagine being 50 years old back in 1920, was a 'older-in-a-sense', than it is today in 2016. Mabel and Jack never left my thoughts the entire book--even when the story shifted more to Faina and young Garrett.
Mabel had already been living with so much despair...how was her relationship with Jack going to 'thrive' ( ha), survive, their already emotional traumas-- let alone the challenging elements? ---

Faina, the 'orphaned wild child', brings hope - and and zesty-energy to everyone in the community. She and her red fox disappear in the summer, return in the winter.
Am I the only one who wondered where they went during the summer months? lol

I didn't feel that the epilogue was necessary at the end, really. It's not that I didn't 'want' to read it --- I DID---at the same time, without it, my imagination would have had a chance to take my own path. I wonder what others think?

I could chat about this book now for hours...but I'll stop-- YOU GUYS HAVE READ THIS BOOK ALREADY... ( you need my thoughts like a hole in the head)...
But it's all true: This is a wonderful book: sad, chilling, mysterious, magical and realistic!

"Where you off to? Jack asked as he scraped the last fork full of egg and potato from his plate
"I thought I go out for a walk, just to see the snow".

On that note ....it's still summer here in California..."I'm walking outside for sunshine - to ride my spin-bike under the tree and continue reading.

Love to my friends!!!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
March 5, 2022
quiet. understated. humble. and oh, so lovely. this tender retelling of ‘the snow maiden’ really shines in its simplicity.

and although this isnt a romance novel, the story just radiates love. jack and mabel are such a wonderful couple and the love they grow to have for faina is so heartfelt.

this story as a whole is a great example of the power of human connection.

4 stars
Profile Image for Nataliya.
783 reviews12.5k followers
April 26, 2023
Once upon a time there lived a childless old couple...

This is not an uncommon beginning to folk tales, a simple introductory line which can (and in Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child does) condense into a few simple words the years of pain, sadness, and intense longing for something that nature refused to give despite desperate desire.
"Where else in life, Mabel wondered, could a woman love so openly and with such abandon?"

This is where I saw the strengths of The Snow Child - not in the imagery of Alaskan wilderness through the prism of magical realism, not in the enigmatic nature of the titular snow child, but in the depiction of quiet, desperate sadness and alienation that plagues a deeply unhappy couple, torn apart by the weight of grief, struggling under the burden of their perceived failures.
"Was that why they had come north— to build a life? Or did fear drive her? Fear of the gray, not just in the strands of her hair and her wilting cheeks, but the gray that ran deeper, to the bone, so that she thought she might turn into a fine dust and simply sift away in the wind."
Jack and Mabel are an aging couple who left their old life and moved to Alaska seemingly to start a homestead but really to escape the weight of their loss that, turns out, they were not able to leave behind with their old lives. More than anything, Mabel desired to have a child, defining herself through the view of motherhood - but all she and Jack have is the memory of a tiny deformed stillborn, the one that Mabel hasn't even had a chance to say goodbye to as Jack (with the best intentions, sadly) quickly took it away for a silent nighttime burial.

Years later, neither Mabel nor Jack have overcome their grief and loneliness. Instead of reaching out to each other, instead of finding ways to cope they seem to have retreated deep into each own self, allowing tiny cracks to appear in their marriage, withdrawing behind invisible doors, isolating themselves from the world filled with life and children and constant reminders of their loss and (at least in their perception) failure. In this state of mind, leaving everything behind and trying to start a brand-new life in Alaska seemed like a promise of a new better life - or so Mabel had hoped.
"Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point, after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbor children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind, and in their place there would be silence."
But little has changed in the new place - the sadness that rules their lives, enveloped in silence and things-not-quite-said refused to be left behind. And here they are, in Alaska, still grieving, still drifting apart, Mabel suicidal in her depression, Jack preoccupied with simply trying to provide sustenance to his family, and things have never looked bleaker for the two of them.
"Was that why they had come north — to build a life? Or did fear drive her? Fear of the gray, not just in the strands of her hair and her wilting cheeks, but the gray that ran deeper, to the bone, so that she thought she might turn into a fine dust and simply sift away in the wind."
These parts of quiet desperation in which Jack and Mabel existed - because at this point it was mere existence and not quite life - were the parts that emotionally connected with me. There is that elusive *something* in the pervasive melancholy superimposed onto the landscape beautiful but cold and severe that touches the soul and pulls on the heartstrings, and even though you know that it's calculated to precisely do just that to your poor vulnerable heartstrings you cannot help but feeling for this miserable couple deeply and sincerely.

My heart ached for Mabel even though I cannot quite relate to her plight. But, unlike her, I can imagine a world where not having children can be a choice instead of a curse, where being a mother is not the sole expectation for a woman, where it is okay to admit to the lack of allure of maternity. For me, such a world is part of our reality. For Mabel, on the other hand, not having children has been out of question - and her not having them was merely unnatural in the America of the 1920s.
"If you said you didn’t have children, it sounded like a choice, and what kind of craziness would that be? If you said you couldn’t, the conversation turned awkward while they contemplated your manliness or your wife’s health."
And then, just as everything seems to be hopeless, the Snow Child appears - a strange and ethereal Faina, a little girl who appears on the night Jack and Mabel in a giddy trance make a snow sculpture in their yard, a child who only is seen in winter and seems one with the snow-covered stern world of Alaska. To Mabel, something about her reminds of a Russian children's story about a snow maiden that graced the lives of an old childless couple; and as far as Mabel remembers, the story does not have a happy ending.

Mabel's Snow Maiden is very familiar to any Russian child. Snegurochka, a tragic young maiden made of snow, doomed to demise by the fire/spring/love in the many versions of the fairytale (beautifully depicted by the famous painter Vasnetsov below), who through the last couple of centuries came to fill the role of the granddaughter of Father Frost, the ubiquitous presence at any kindergarten New Year's Day party, the inspiration for the many children's New Year's outfits (see baby Nataliya below as a very special snowflake/Snegurochka):

Faina, unfortunately, is the weak link in the melancholic fragile magic that is the sadness of this book. Is she real or fantastical? A snow child or an abandoned little girl? seems to be the question that plagues her adoptive parents; her vulnerable fragility masked by the exterior of strength and stubbornness is touching, indeed. But it's precisely this mysteriousness, further underscored by the quotation-mark-less dialogue every time Faina makes her appearance was what for me prevented the formation of any meaningful connection with her. Faina's appearances, right down to the 'what just happened here?' last one I found instead frustrating, jarring and interrupting the tone of the book.

Mabel's friend Esther, basically the embodiment of life energy that Mabel appears to lack, a breath of vitality in the slow melancholic existence. Unfortunately, this stark contrast again breaks the mood of this book that hinges on quiet sadness.

Overall, I found this book to be a lovely story, even if far from perfect. It's captivating in its own quiet way when it focuses on its strength - the fragile yet tender relationship between two aging lonely people in the cold and cruel but beautiful world. 3.5 stars and a respectful nod to Eowyn Ivey for a rather strong debut work.
"But he knelt at her feet, put his head in her lap, and they held each other and shared the sorrow of an old man and an old woman who have lost their only child."
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
November 27, 2018
A magical & classic fairytale story for adults!  (bringing back memories of our childhood)
Sister Read Review by Norma & Brenda

THE SNOW CHILD by EOWYN IVEY is a wonderful, heartwarming, sad, and beautifully told bewitching tale based on a Russian fairytale titled "Snegurochka", The Snow Maiden a girl who is believed to be half-human and half made of snow.  This enchanting story had us both asking ourselves was there something magical happening here or not?  Oh, but for us, there definitely was something magical about IVEY’S writing style here.

THE SNOW CHILD captured our imagination as the characters captured our hearts.  Leaving us questioning the mysteries surrounding this so real story that had us hovering between reality and fantasy. Asking ourselves if Faina was actually a real girl or a fantasy?  Was she a product of their imagination because of their desire for a child of their own?  Or was she something magical?  This added some suspense to the story as we tried to figure out who this little girl was.  

EOWYN IVEY delivers a very vivid story here that gives you an extremely good feel of sense of time and place of these characters homesteading in Alaska. The wonderful feel of the land, their battle against nature, the harsh cold (that actually had Brenda feeling chilled as she was reading) and their isolation.  IVEY’S description of life on the farm was very real and we could imagine the battles they endured along with all their hard work to survive.

We both loved the fantasy and magical aspect of this story which made it a thoroughly pleasurable reading experience!

To sum it all up it was an enjoyable, fun, fascinating, and a fast-paced read with a bittersweet ending. Most definitely would recommend.

All of Brenda and my reviews can be found on our sister blog:
Profile Image for Julie G.
896 reviews2,930 followers
December 20, 2020
Reading Road Trip 2020

Current location: Alaska

Alaska gave up nothing easily. It was lean and wild and indifferent to a man's struggle. . .

I don't know how old Eowyn Ivey was when she started this debut novel, The Snow Child, but I'm going to guess she was relatively young. It's filled with many rookie mistakes I made in my own first novel: a strong primary protagonist surrounded by several lesser formed characters, the action of the story reduced to one primary setting, and a few loose plot points that require suspension of disbelief from the reader.

In many ways, this debut work to me feels like an early draft of what would later become The Bright Edge of the World. The storylines are very similar: a childless couple dealing with the unforgiving and beautiful environs of Alaska, letter writing as an important vehicle for plot, and an encounter with a fledgling child of mystical origins.

I'm not sure why Ms. Ivey has written about the same thing, twice. I'm also not sure why she depicted this couple, Jack and Mabel, as so old. . . so very, very old (in their late 40s!), and introduced them to us as “estranged” or at the very least, drifting apart to the point of not speaking almost once in an entire day, to having them engage in almost unbelievable amounts of sexual activity.

I mean. . . I'm glad someone's having sex during this pandemic, but the scene where the couple, after killing, boiling and plucking the feathers off of twelve of their chickens, find themselves engaging in foreplay was really almost too much for me. As a reader, I was turning green at the descriptions of what the room smelled like (singed bird skin and dirty feathers), so imagine my surprise when Jack wants to get it on. As they hit the floor in a frenzy of feathers and lust, I think I threw up a little in my mouth in surprise.

Honestly, their little corner of Alaska was so cold, dirty and smelly (and lacking in dental floss), I think I would have finally accepted celibacy as my fate, but these two could go from no conversation to screwing the chicken feathers right off of each other in five minutes flat. Apparently moose steaks are a natural aphrodisiac.

And the kid. . . the little snow child. This kid gave me the CREEPS. Nothing about her made any sense (most especially the ending). I kept thinking of her as Stephen King's famous little fire starter: a devil child. She never worked for me, as a character, and I kept hoping they'd padlock the door or move, every time she left their cabin.

I also could have lived without the woefully unformed Mabel, who could only say: “Oh,” over and over again, but who sketched like John James Audubon (again, just like the protagonist in THE BRIGHT EDGE OF THE WORLD).

Okay, so I'm bitching and moaning, and you're getting uptight because you loved this book and that creepy little kid, but you shouldn't be, because there's this other less bitchy part of me that wants to tell you what's so great about Eowyn Ivey's writing: she's a STORYTELLER, and many, many writers are not. She's a storyteller, and that makes you turn the pages of her stories as though you need to fan a fire with them. She delights me, terribly, in her ability to prove to me that the human imagination hasn't died.

She's also a NATURALIST, and she made the state of Alaska a character. Quite brilliantly, too. She not only shows us how Alaska “draws kooks like flies;” she shows us her greatest secrets, how beautiful and dangerous she can be.

The snow child, Faina, is that dangerous beauty, personified, and I can't help but think that the husband, Jack, represents the writer, Jack London, who brought Alaska to most of us for the very first time.

Ms. Ivey is also a PSYCHOLOGIST. I've noticed that in both of her novels, to manages to have better insights than some therapists, into what divides men and woman apart and what brings them back together.

(Chicken feathers. Duh).

I preferred TO THE BRIGHT EDGE OF THE WORLD, because, well, it's basically this story, done better. This is a beauty of a debut, though, with a stunning cover to boot. The state of Alaska just couldn't ask for a better way to increase tourism.
Profile Image for Karen.
593 reviews1,197 followers
February 10, 2017
I loved this sweet story! So much heart and a little magic!
Profile Image for Danielle.
832 reviews451 followers
June 20, 2021
2012 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.

This is a mixture of 1920’s Alaskan homesteaders and fairytale. 🙂 I’m still not really sure what happened in the end… but I think that’s the point. 🤷🏼‍♀️
Profile Image for Reading Corner.
88 reviews109 followers
February 5, 2016
So this story was beautiful with so many cute and heartbreaking moments. One of the best things in the book is the character development and the developing relationships throughout the story. From the start of the book, I nearly started crying because there was just scenes that were so heart wrenching especially at the end which completely broke my heart.

All the characters are perfect in this novel, they all have their faults but just as many strengths and the unexpected romance towards the end just killed me. Faina, the snow child is one of the coolest characters I have ever met as she's a quiet badass. Her interactions with Mabel and Jack are so cute and the relationship that develops between the three of them is adorable. The neighbours, George, Esther and their children are hilarious especially Esther. She's a woman who gets stuck in and says what she's thinking.

The looming tale of the Russian fairytale is beautifully woven in along the story and sometimes makes you question yourself. The way the story progresses is brilliant and everything happening in the story is engrossing.

I completely fell in love with this book and I have to buy my own copy. This has definitely weaved it's way into my favourites because of the strong emotions it made my feel while reading it.A woeful tale full of both tragedies and joy but a fantastic read.
Profile Image for Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile.
2,043 reviews629 followers
November 28, 2020
What a whirlwind of emotion this was! The fantastical yet realistic world the author created was the perfect blend. Sometimes it felt like a good novel, sometimes like a fairy tale, and the beautiful contrast and uncertainty was captivating. There are so many elements that you aren't sure what is real yet unlikely, or perhaps could be true magic. The plot throughout and ultimately the ending were unexpected, and I never guessed what was coming. Along with the stunning story, the author gives the gift of glimpsing life in Alaska, which is so unique to most Americans and even the world. I truly felt as if I was there in the -20 degrees too, scraping out a living.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,487 reviews842 followers
July 4, 2018
“It was beautiful, Mabel knew, but it was a beauty that ripped you open and scoured you clean so that you were left helpless and exposed, if you lived at all.
. . .

Jack had always scoffed at the superstitious and mystical. Alone in the depths of the wilderness, however, in the fading winter light, he had discovered in himself an animal-like fear.”

A debut, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and a wonderful story I’m happy to add to my list of favourites. I used to read myths and fairy tales, so I’m a perfect audience for this lovely interpretation of an old Russian folktale.

It's 1920, Wolverine River, Alaska. Jack and Mabel have made a daring move from the comfortable East Coast of the United States. Mabel was a well-educated, sheltered girl, but when she and Jack lost their baby and have had none since, she urged him to make the change. They needed to start anew, by themselves, for themselves. Or so she told people.

“. . . she wondered if she had told the truth. Was that why they had come north – to build a life? Or did fear drive her? Fear of the gray, not just in the strands of her hair and her wilting cheeks, but the gray that ran deeper, to the bone, so that she thought she might turn into a fine dust and simply sift away in the wind.”

Eventually the isolation, Jack’s troubles trying to farm, and their dwindling finances finally grind Mabel down, not to a fine dust, but to a state of despair.

She’s ready to call it quits, but then one day, they meet a neighbour family of lively boys and colourful parents, and they are sucked into their warm circle. Esther is a strong, loveable woman in overalls with a never-say-die attitude. Just what Mabel needs.

“Esther burst into the cabin like a friendly hen, flapping and chattering and nearly knocking Mabel over as she tried to open the door for her. In one hand she held a towel-covered cast-iron pot and with the other she hugged Mabel and kissed her on the cheek.”

When the snow begins to fall softly one night, Mabel remembers playing in it as a girl.

Before we know it, she and Jack are outside, throwing snowballs and building a snowman. No, a snow girl. With red mittens and scarf, a pretty face carved by Jack, and lips reddened by a berry. Yellow grass hair is the last touch.

The next morning, the snow has melted and Jack glimpses a figure with yellow hair and a red scarf, dashing through the trees.

When Mabel remembers the Russian folktale her father used to read them about a childless old couple who made a snow child that came to life, she writes to her sister to ask for the old book.

As Jack finally tracks her and coaxes her to come closer to the cabin, we see Faina is like a lovely wild animal. Shy of them but fierce and capable of looking after herself in ways they can’t.

“The child brought the smell of snow in with her, and the air in the cabin cooled and brightened.”

As they begin to interact, Mabel keeps re-reading the story and her sister’s letter with more details of the folktale. She becomes frightened, understanding that such a child may not survive.

“Another child gone from their lives. It was a possibility she could not bear. She wound herself tightly, as if within her girdled ribs she could contain all possibilities, all futures and all deaths. Perhaps if she held herself just right. Maybe if she knew what would be or could be. Or if she wished with enough heart. If only she could believe.”

Haven’t we all done that? Prayed, crossed fingers, collected lucky charms, “wound ourselves tightly”?

Ivey has written a magical story, and it even includes a possible explanation for Faina’s presence. But we don’t really buy that, do we? We like the fairy tale. And this is a magical place.

“Illumination behind the peaks shot up into shards of light, blue-green like a dying fire, rippled and twisted, then spun circles into ribbons of purple that stretched up and over Mabel’s head until she heard an electric crackle like the sparks from a wool blanket in a dry cabin at night. She looked directly up into the northern lights and she wondered if those cold-burning specters might not draw her breath, her very soul, out of her chest and into the stars.”
Profile Image for Matt.
3,820 reviews12.8k followers
February 3, 2018
With her sensational debut novel, Eowyn Ivey offers readers a healthy dose of rural Alaskan life balanced with a story that pulls on the heartstrings. Mabel and Jack have come to settle on the Alaskan home-front in the 1920s, having left behind the busy Pennsylvania lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. Childless and in their 50s, Jack and Mabel are forced to forge their own way and subsist on whatever they can accumulate. While Jack toils away on their land, Mabel’s idle time is spent remembering the child they lost and how devastating it was for her, having always yearned to be a mother. On the evening of the first snowfall of the season, Jack and Mabel venture out to build a little snow girl, adding all the accoutrements they can create, before turning in for the night. Mabel wakes the next morning to find the snow girl gone, likely destroyed by an animal. However, she is sure she’s seen something in the woods, when she leaves the safety of her home. Unable to convince anyone, Mabel wonders if a story from her childhood has influenced her. When Jack finally meets the girls in the woods, sure that this is no longer an apparition that Mabel has concocted. Jack soon makes a discovery about which he tells to no one and invites the young girl to come live with them. The as-to-now nameless girl soon admits to being called Faina, a unique name that both Mabel and Jack adopt with ease. While Faina is happy to live with her new parental figures, she also enjoys her independence and disappears on occasion, off into the woods, where she once made her home. Mabel soon receives a package from her sister, one that includes the story read to her as a child. The piece explores the life of an older couple and their connection to a snow girl, though, like most fairy tales, the story takes a turn for the worse and has an ending that is anything but happy. Guarded with the knowledge of what might cause Faina to leave forever (or disintegrate before their eyes), Mabel and Jack become protective of the child they always wanted but never could have. As the years progress, Faina develops into a young woman with new issues that must be addressed, adding new layers of concern on the Alaskan home-front. Ivey’s story is both captivating and chilling to the core as the reader sees just how precarious life can be and the fragility of familial bonds. Recommended for anyone with a penchant for slow evolving stories that find their action and suspense in the smallest developments.

I had heard much about this book before I got my hands on it, with mixed reviews. I liked the premise and could not help but enjoy how the story evolved in the rural Alaskan communities. I felt a connection to the story and characters, not distracted with busy city life or blazing gunfights. The characters are well-crafted, mixing backstory with development throughout this piece. Ivey does well the flesh-out the Jack and Mabel characters from the outset, balancing their current lifestyle against the reasons they fled Pennsylvania and everything they knew. The rough lifestyle contrasts nicely with the love they show one another and, eventually, Faina, who is equally interesting a character. Developed from the Russian fairytale that Mabel knows so well, the reader develops an somewhat deep seeded expectation of how Faina will act and what will become of her, though being touch by love in human form (as opposed to animal) changes her perspective on things. The story, though not as fast paced as some would like, flows nicely and offers numerous symbols throughout. I cannot express how pleased I was to see the slow development never falter and how Ivey kept the reader enthralled, even if things did not happen at breakneck speed. As a very brief aside, it is addressed throughout parts of the novel that fairytales, while geared for children, tend to have strong negative outcomes (at least until Disney morphs them) and horrid happenings. Many of the tales Neo and I have read together are gore-filled and nothing I would want to present to a child, as is The Snow Girl in reference to the story Mabel read as a child. Brilliantly developed for a debut novel and I am pleased I did not listen to those who panned this book quite heavily.

Kudos, Madam Ivey, for this debut success. I will be reading your second novel and hope it packs as much punch as this one did for me.

This novel fulfils Topic #6 (A Book About the Current Equinox) in the Equinox #2 Reading Challenge

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Nathan.
47 reviews29 followers
December 11, 2011
It's truly gratifying to come across a book that evokes the senses to such a degree that its flavor is brought to the palate. Such is the case with Eowyn Ivey's debut novel, The Snow Child. Infused with aspects of pine boughs, mountain herbs, woolen mittens and inspired by happenstance, it breathes new life into an old Russian children's tale Ivey stumbled upon in her bookstore.

We come to know of aging Jack and Mabel through their childless sorrows, playful intense love and survivalist fortitude all cruxing on a belief in dreams and a touch of magic. Through imagery spun with such crispness as to leave a skiff of snow on your heart and the bite of cold wilderness air in your lungs, it's nearly impossible not to fall deeply into the story of Faina and her enchanted sudden appearance. And I must say, the skill with which Ivey works your emotions--ebbing and flowing like tides with each of Faina's heartbreaking disappearances--belies the fact this is her first book. Devastation and light, fear and hope, all there. At the end, I found myself believing Jack, Mabel, Faina and the cast of supportive neighbors--pragmatic George, boisterous Esther and their helpful wide-eyed son Garrett--really existed somewhere, somehow. (surely these must be real Alaskan folk...)

I can only leave you with this: when you bring this book into your world, carve out time to give it your full attention. Then make a space for it on your shelf of favorites, it belongs there.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
September 2, 2013
Is she real or is this just a fairy tale ? It didn't matter - the writing is just so amazing ! I felt the brutal cold , saw the landscape , felt the deep pain of Mabel & Jack and loved Faina . This will stay with me for a long time .
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,323 followers
February 19, 2017
4 stars! I truly enjoyed the experience of reading this beautifully written book! The author, Eowyn Ivey, has an unbelievably unique and astounding way with words. She paints such a clear picture that draws the reader right into the snow filled fields of the Alaskan homestead.

I was completely engrossed in Jack and Mabel's love story. The struggles they endured as a couple only made their bond stronger as husband and wife. I had endless sympathy for them as I witnessed their vulnerabilities as struggling farmers, their hopelessness at accepting that they could not bear children, their struggles to figure out where Faina fit into their world.

I loved each and every character in this story - my most favourite being Esther, Mabel and Jack's "neighbour". She was outspoken and overbearing, yet she had such a warm, endearing way about her - it was like she commanded your love and respect without you realizing it. She welcomed Mabel and Jack into her life with open arms and loved them like family from the moment she met them. Mabel, being a shy, reserved woman, didn't know how to handle Esther at first with her outgoing, take-charge personality. I giggled to myself a few times while reading their initial interactions.

I was hesitant in picking up this book due to the "fantasy" aspect, however, the "magic" of this story is so well done that I was able to accept it and "run with it". While I didn't love this book quite as much as Ivey's most recent novel, To The Bright Edge Of The World, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading such a unique and beautifully written story.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
October 30, 2021
The Snow Child, 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.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «بچه‌برفی»؛ «دختر برفی»؛ نویسنده: ایووین آیوی؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیست و نهم ماه اکتبر سال2015میلادی

عنوان: بچه‌برفی؛ نویسنده: ایووین آیوی؛ مترجم سیدمصطفی رضیئی؛ تهران، مروارید، سال1393؛ در434ص؛ شابک9789641912125؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان آلاسکا ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م

عنوان: دختر برفی؛ ایووین آیوی؛ مترجم زهرا تابشیان؛ تهران، نگاه، سال1397؛ در407ص؛ شابک9786003763579؛

قصه‌های پریان و افسانه‌های کودکانه در کتاب «دختر برفی» بار دیگر زنده شده، و اثری خواندنی آفریده؛ «ایووین آیوی» نویسنده‌ ای که توانسته اند با نگارش این کتاب، روح تازه‌ای به دنیای ادبیات جهان بدمند، و داستانی همزمان هم برای بچه‌ها و هم بزرگسالان بنگارند

چکیده داستان: سال1920میلادی است؛ «جک» و «میبل» زن و شوهری هستند، که در «آلاسکا» زندگانی می‌کنند؛ ده سال پیش، نوزاد آن‌ها مرده به دنیا آمده، بدون اینکه «میبل» بتواند او را ببیند؛ در آن سال‌ها، سکوت و رخوت، به خانه‌ ی سرد و بین آن‌ دو، یک دیوار بزرگوار کشیده بود؛ با نخستین بارش برف در همان سال، شوری ناگهانی و ناباورانه، سراغ «میبل» می‌آید، و با یاری «جک»، با همدیگر یک آدم‌برفی کوچک درست می‌کنند؛ یک آدم برفی همانند دختر کوچولویی هشت نه ساله: «فیینا» با پالتوی آبی، شال گردنی قرمز، و صورتی کوچک و دلنشین؛ این آدم برفی در جادوی مهتاب، و برف نیمه‌ شب، جان می‌گیرد، و از حیاط کوچک خانه‌ ی «جک» و «میبل»، ناپدید می‌گردد

این کتاب در مرز «رئالیسم جادویی» و «افسانه»، به آرامی در نوسان است؛ درست همان لحظه‌ای که خوانشگر احساس می‌کند، وارد دنیای پریان و افسانه‌های جادویی شده، ناگهان همه چیز شکلی باورپذیر به خود می‌گیرد

نقل از متن: (مزرعه ی نیمه تمام را، پشت سر گذاشته بود، که اسب دوباره سکندری رفت، سرش را این ور و آن ور چرخاند، و شیهه کشید؛ «جک» افسارش را کشید؛ چشم‌هایش را تنگ کرد، و به درخت‌هایی که در اطرافش افتاده بودند، و در پس آن‌ها، به درخت‌های نبریده‌ ی «غان»، نگریست؛ جنگل ساکت بود؛ حتی صدای جیک‌جیک پرندگان هم شنیده نمی‌شد؛ اسب پا را به زمین کوبید، و بی‌حرکت ایستاد؛ «جک» نفسش را در سینه زندانی کرد، تا بهتر ببیند و بشنود؛ چیزی داشت آن‌ها را می‌پایید
چه فکر احمقانه‌ای؛ چه کسی ممکن است آنجا باشد؟ برای چندمین بار فکر کرد، ممکن است حیوانات وحشی، باعث این حس ناآرامی در حیوان شده باشند؛ حیوانات خنگ مثل گاو و مرغ، می‌توانند تمام روز به پشت آدم زل بزنند، بدون این که آدم حس کند؛ ولی شاید موجودات جنگلی متفاوت باشند؛ سعی کرد خرسی را مجسم کند، که در این مدت توی جنگل پرسه می‌زده، و او و اسبش را زیر نظر داشته؛ البته با وجود نزدیک بودن زمستان، این امر خیلی محتمل نبود؛ در این فصل، خرسها باید در جستجوی جایی دنج برای خواب زمستانی‌شان باشند؛ گهگاه کُنده‌ای، یا نقطه‌ای تیره، لابه‌لای درخت‌ها، توجهش را جلب می‌کرد؛ به خودش گفت ول کن پیرمرد؛ اگر هی دنبال چیزی بگردی که وجود خارجی ندارد، دیوانه می‌شوی
افسار را تکان داد و برای آخرین بار، پشتش را نگاه کرد؛ اینبار دیدش، حرکتی سریع، لکه‌ای قرمز مایل به قهوه‌ای؛ اسب شیهه کشید؛ «جک» آهسته برگشت
یک روباه قرمز، مثل باد، میان درختان جنگل دوید؛ لحظه‌ای ناپدید شد، و دوباره سر و کله‌اش پیدا شد، در حالیکه دم پرپشتش را روی زمین می‌کشید؛ روباه ناگهان توقف کرد، و رویش را برگرداند؛ در یک لحظه چشم‌هایش توی چشم‌های «جک» قفل شد؛ و «جک» در نی‌نیِ طلایی چشم‌های تنگ شده‌اش، به عمق توحش در این سرزمین پی برد؛ انگار که خود وحش را می‌بیند.)؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Tabetha.
66 reviews133 followers
February 24, 2016
"'There,' he said. He stepped back. Sculpted in the white snow were perfect, lovely eyes, a nose, and small, white lips. She even thought she could see cheekbones and a little chin...How could she speak her surprise? Such delicate features. formed by his calloused hands, a glimpse at his longing. Surely, he too, had wanted children...they believed that someday their Christmas mornings would reel with running children and squeals of delight. She sewed a small stocking of their firstborn and he sketched plans for a rocking horse he would build. Maybe the first would be a girl, or would be a boy? How could they have known that twenty years later they would still be childless, just an old man and an old woman alone in the wildnerness?"

A fairytale retelling of the Russian fairytale, "Snegurochka" ("The Snow Maiden"), this quietly intense book captured my heart from the very beginning, and would not let go. Jack and Mabel live in 1920 in the harsh reality that is the wilderness of Alpine, Alaska, with its unbearable summer heat, then all too quickly, with its freezing bitter winter cold, snow and ice, the lack of visibility, the isolation and loneliness. Most of all, they face the fear of not being able to survive the brutal winter, they watch and wait each year for the first signs of spring. They are childless, and not by choice. Jack and Mabel hold their grief close, weighted down, buried deep within their hearts. But one night, they let go of their grief and create a beautiful child out of snow...and in that moment, their lives will change forever, hope and light will replace despair and depression.

Eowyn Ivey writes so vividly that I felt I was in the middle of the snow and then a full blown snow storm, and during the summer scenes, I felt the heat of the hot sun, the mosquitoes swarming. This story is such a beautiful example of magical realism, the fantastical, the imagined, combined and layered into the every day real life. And such a life that this couple experienced in the Alaskan wilderness where nothing is taken for granted, where preparing for the upcoming winter is paramount all spring and all summer. I recommend this story to anyone that values the beauty and selflessness of true friendship, who has ever dealt with love and loss in their life, or to those who are parents, as this book speaks to the nature of giving, caring, nurturing, but eventually, having to let go...

And then, the wonder of the miraculous snow child appears out of nowhere...
"The girl appeared and disappeared without warning and it unnerved Jack. There was something otherworldly in her manners and appearance, her frosty lashes and cool blue stare, the way she materialized out of the forest. In ways she was clearly just a little girl, with her small frame and rare, stifled giggles, but in others she seemed composed and wise, as if she moved through the world with knowledge beyond anything Jack had encountered."

Profile Image for Debra .
2,421 reviews35.2k followers
November 11, 2017
What happens when a childless couple, Jack and Mable, build a child out of snow during the season's first snowfall? Magic! That is what happens. The Snow child is based on a Russian fairy tale called Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden). Set in rural Alaska, this book is atmospheric, eerie, hopeful, with an underlying sadness. The writing is beautiful, moving and takes the reader deep into Alaska and into the home of Jack and Mabel, into their lives, the lives of their friends, through the snow and into their hearts.

Jack and Mabel have left Pennsylvania behind in search of a better quieter life. They really don't know just how harsh winter can be in Alaska. How hard it will be to grow crops and keep livestock alive. The darkness and cold weigh them down. They feel they are drifting apart. Mabel, at one point, tries to drown herself but the ice has other plans and she returns home to spend the evening with her husband. Both feel distant from each other. Both alone but living under the same roof. How lonely a life they have filled with sadness and longing for a child. They had a stillborn once but have no hopes that they will ever have a child again. I could literally feel the sadness seeping through the pages - drip drip drip. The longing, the loneliness, the sadness, the pain.

Then one night they decide to tuck their loneliness away and venture outside and play as if they were children themselves. For one night they are able to forget their past loss, and be free. They play in the snow and fashion a child out of snow. They dress their "snow child" with a scarf and dress.

The next day they see a little girl running through the woods with a fox as her companion. Could this young girl be their "snow child" They name her Faina. She brings change for both of them. The sadness that has been weighing them down melts away. Could this child, born of "ice and snow" be the answer they have been looking for. They begin to care for her and she them. They become a family. Faina comes and goes as she pleases, often disappearing to who knows where. She brings them gifts of berries and meat. Never really theirs but always a member of their family, Faina becomes their pride and joy. As the climate becomes warmer they begin to see her less and less until one day......

Ivey has a gift for making the snow and weather another character in this book. I could feel the coldness, the silence of the snow and ice seeping through the pages. This book is very atmospheric. It is also heavy on emotion. Sadness is an underlying emotion in this book. Often while reading this book, I wondered "what is real", "what is fantasy" and "does it really matter?"

Beautiful and eloquent, The Snow Child is heavy on atmosphere and emotion. Not all fairy tales have a happy ending. Will this one?

See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,389 reviews1,469 followers
March 29, 2018
A beautiful, magic-tinged tale of an aging couple, the bleak Alaskan wilderness and a child who appears one day in the wood.

Mabel and Jack always wanted a child, but after suffering a miscarriage, they begin to lose hope of ever conceiving. Mabel suffers in female society without a child of her own.

She begs Jack to take her to Alaska for a fresh start. He agrees. But it doesn't work.

The weather is dark and freezing. The ground is hard and takes more effort than Jack can give. They aren't thriving.

"All her life she had believed in something more, in the mystery that shape-shifted at the edge of her senses. It was the flutter of moth wings on glass and the promise of river nymphs in the dappled creek beds. ... Mabel could not remember the last time she caught such a flicker." pg 6, ebook.

Then, out of the blue, a child magically appears during a snow storm.

She is so light on her feet and silent, Jack and Mabel don't at first believe their eyes. The child travels with a fox and barely leaves prints to follow on the snow.

"What did he expect to find? A fairy-tale beast that holds young girls captive in a mountain cave? ... Or nothing at all, no child, no tracks, no door, only insanity bared in the untouched snow? That is perhaps what he feared the most, that he would discover he had followed nothing more than an illusion." pg 72, ebook.

Mabel remembers a Russian fairy tale from her childhood, of a couple who builds a girl out of snow. In the story within the story, the girl becomes real.

Could Jack and Mabel have created the child they have always dreamed of?

"I am sorry to say no matter which version, the story ends badly. The little snow girl comes and goes with winter, but in the end she always melts." pg 96, ebook.

How will Jack and Mabel's story end?

Recommended for fans of historical fiction and tales that contain magical realism.

"In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees." pg 189, ebook.

I thought The Snow Child was beautiful and well-told. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,468 followers
April 15, 2012
This is a beautifully written book. The Snow Child is inspired by the Russian folktale in which a childless elderly couple make a snowchild that comes to life as a young girl. Ivey's use of the folktale is multilayered and inventive, and works very well in the book's setting of Alaska in the 1920s.

I cared about the characters, but I especially loved the depictions of the Alaskan wilderness throughout the seasons. The novel also pays homage to freedom and individuality, while at the same time celebrating the bonds of friendship, love and trust that tie together friends and family. One theme that resonates with me is the importance of being a part of something larger than oneself - a family, a farm, a close friendship, nature.
Profile Image for Silvanna.
70 reviews
September 22, 2018
The Snow Child is wonderful book, so good that you as the reader, despite knowing what will inevitably happen to this extraordinary family, trusts Ivey completely to lead you to it’s inevitable end. A staggering talent.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book562 followers
September 25, 2017
The Snow Child is based on an ancient Russian fairy tale, and like any good fairy tale, it touches the edges between what is real and what is imagined. Eowyn Ivey commands the language in such a beautiful, moving way, that it would almost not matter if the story was not spectacular. But, never fear, she couples all that almost poetic language with a story that is moving and captivating and mysterious. This is the kind of magical realism I can buy into. It is like good slight of hand, you cannot stop yourself from believing what you see, or in this case what you read.

All her life she had believed in something more, in the mystery that shape-shifted at the edge of her senses. It was the flutter of moth wings on glass and the promise of river nymphs in the dappled creek beds. It was the smell of oak trees on the summer evening she fell in love, and the way dawn threw itself across the cow pond and turned the water to light.

I found myself whispering, “I believe in those things as well.”

I certainly cared about these people, each of them. I wanted so much for Jack and Mabel to find happiness and reward for their hard lives. I loved Fiana, who seemed to be so at one with nature and so self-sufficient, and yet so lonely. I did not read, so much as devour, this book. It is sweet and poignant and infinitely realistic.

I can file this one under F for “favorite”.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,255 reviews2,299 followers
February 7, 2018
There is a special kind of emptiness in a marriage, when both the partners long for a child without success. Their private moments change from solitude to loneliness: intimate chatter degenerates into monosyllables before ultimately descending into dark silence. The carefree laughter of a child, the picture of a smiling cherubic face, or the pitter-patter of small feet on the road all become exquisite torture - reminders of some esoteric happiness forever out of reach.

I know... I have been there.

It must be (at least in part) to tackle this anxiety creatively that fairy-tales use the trope of the childless couple quite frequently. The story is quite formulaic: there will be an old couple (mostly on the edge of a wood) who would have been longing for a child without success for ages. Finally out of desperation, the woman (or in some cases, both the partners together) would fashion a child's likeness out of some unlikely object such as wood or mud, treat it like a human child for one night, and - hey presto! - it would become human overnight. The overjoyed couple would raise it as their own, but the story would usually end badly, with the breaking of some taboo resulting in the child going away.

"Snegurochka" (Snow Maiden) is a Russian fairy tale where the child is fashioned out of snow by a childless woodcutter and his wife, and subsequently brought to life by Father Frost, the spirit of the winter, who takes pity on them. The snow maiden lives with her foster parents quite happily until she falls for a human boy against the express admonitions of Father Frost - the warmth inside melts her, and she fades away bringing spring to the countryside in the process.

From myths.e2bn.org:

As the snow maiden faded away, spring spread over the land: the frost retreated and the small flowers of the fields began to bloom. Everyone was cheered by the return of spring. Everyone that is except, the young shepherd who felt desolate and cold, despite the warmth of the sun.

As for the old couple, they felt their loss deeply but, in their hearts, they had always known the magic could not last. They were just thankful for the beautiful snow maiden who had brought such warmth and joy to their lives and given them hope in the depths of winter.

But what of the snow maiden? Well, it is said that, as she melted away, her spirit was caught by Father Frost who retreated to far lands with the advance of Mother Spring. He took the spirit of his daughter across the stars to the frozen lands of the north, where she again took the form of a beautiful young woman. Here she plays all through the summer - on the frozen seas.

But, each year in winter, on the first day of the New Year, Father Frost and the Snow Maiden return to Russia in their troika (sleigh). And they continue to work their magic, as they did long ago for the woodcutter and his wife, for those who are good and kind, particularly the children, bringing them small gifts and helping to make their dreams come true.


Eowyn Ivey has taken this bittersweet story, transplanted it to the rural Alaska of 1920's, and woven a tale which is every bit as magical as the original. Her protagonists are Mabel and Jack, who are trying to make a living on their farm, fighting against the unforgiving climate as well as life, which has given them only the memory of a stillborn child to live on. The couple are slowly moving apart, and Mabel is on the verge of suicide when, in one blustery night of mad gaiety they a fashion a girl out of snow in front of their cabin. Next day, the child is gone - and a wild girl starts visiting them, clandestinely at first, then more and more openly.

The girl, Faina, is more or less adopted by the couple soon. Their close friends George and Esther initially consider the unseen girl as a hallucination conjured up by Mabel, but after the initial shock of meeting her in person, comes to accept her as she is. Their youngest son, Garrett, a boy of the forest himself is initially antagonistic. Well, as so often happens, antagonism changes to fascination, mutual attraction and love... and the story moves towards its expected climax (and no, this is not a spoiler!).

The beauty of this novel is that it does not follow the trope of the fairy tale blindly. Faina (the child) has a mysterious past as the daughter of an eccentric trapper who died in the forest. She lives off the wild, hunting and eating animals in a strangely feral manner. It is left to us to decide whether Faina is real or a phantasm. While such a style could easily become contrived, Ivey walks the tightrope expertly. There are times when we feel that the novelist is slipping into the realms of fantasy, but every time she pulls back just in time.

Contrasted with Faina are Mabel and Jack, who are very real. Mabel, with her cultured upbringing and artistic tendencies, is the bridge that links the gritty and unromantic world of rural America to the poesy of the snowy slopes of the far north. In fact, the story is almost self-referential in the sense that Mabel owns a book telling the story of the snow maiden, which her father (a literature professor) used to read to her: however, she learns as an adult that he only pretended to read, because the tale is in Russian! Only the pictures make sense, including the terrifying last one of the melted maiden.

We follow the characters with bated breath as they move along their pre-ordained paths - but the end, when it comes, is refreshingly different from yet absolutely faithful to the original. I will leave it at that.


From myths.e2bn.org:

In countries that had long harsh winters, the coming of spring was also an immensely important event, particularly to the poor for whom the winters could be extremely harsh. The Russian story of the Snow Maiden sees the battle between the eternal forces of nature (Father Frost and Mother Spring) for warmth to return to the land. And for spring to return, winter has to die. The theme and the interaction of these mythical characters with mortal people like Kupava and Mizgir through the character of the Snow Maiden, would have been very meaningful to people, who longed for and celebrated the return of spring.

Birth, death, rebirth - these are the themes of ageless tales. There are no full stops in life, but an endless cycle of seasons through which we eke out our existence - brief candles, whose flames are ephemeral yet eternal at some level.

Four well-deserved stars.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,114 followers
July 1, 2018
Well, I do believe I was wise to wait on reading this one because of the subject matter, but it is beautiful. It is about grief, survival, marriage, magic, and community. I read it while I was in Alaska, which added a lot of atmosphere, thinking about the people who can stick it out and survive such a place, and about this snow child who can't be too far from the ice and snow. It's a marvel to read it in that setting. I think I read the last 300 pages without stopping, the morning after falling asleep reading it. I just kept reading, maybe even in my sleep.

Also interesting to read it after To The Bright Edge of the World, when most readers probably encountered the books in reverse order. I already knew the Wolverine River, and the dangers, and the sometimes magical landscape... so this book felt like returning to something.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews532 followers
February 8, 2017

This incredibly beautiful story was inspired by and tenderly envelopes an Old Russian folktale. One evening an elderly, childless couple build a girl out of snow. Come morning it is missing, leaving faint footprints, from where the snow child once stood.

Set deep in the Alaskan wilderness, the environment is like a mirror on our couple, one that Ivey breathes life into, through the many seasons of this tale. I loved the stark, majestic beauty of the always there and always demanding landscape.

Our couple, Jack and Mabel, have left Pennsylvania behind, with their still born child, and invested all they have in a homestead in Wolverine River, Alaska. Each of them pack up their own baggage, their own heartache, their own hopes, and they keep them close, insulating them from the memories of what might have been and from each other. But love has many rooms and Jack and Mabel have built a home.

With the dream like quality of a good fairy tale I was quite simply enchanted.

A simple story, a wonderful rendition, an enchanting cover….come on!
Profile Image for Linda Robinson.
Author 4 books139 followers
July 22, 2012
Amazing talent, beautifully delivered. This is a five sense book, and maybe a sixth and seventh as well. I could hear a bull moose snorting, swan screaming, snow crunching, river ice cracking. I could taste moose meat for the thirtieth and 100th time; smell wet wool and blood, birch fire and moonshine. I could touch the two-man saw, feel the weight of an ax, and the tiny threads of intricate embroidery. And always, always the snow and the earth beneath. I could see rows and rows of crops growing in the heat of the short Alaska season - in fact I dreamed about it last night. Sense of place is superbly developed, as expertly crafted as a prize winning pie, or a winter coat made reverently by hand. Ivey grew up in Alaska and clearly loves where she still lives. The characters in this debut novel are cradled, grown, tried and triumphed in the rugged, unforgiving wilderness. And out of the night in an Alaska blizzard, when grief and solitude are crusted around homesteader hearts, a little girl with pale eyelashes and a fur hat appears in the frost on the window.
Profile Image for Scarlet.
187 reviews1,169 followers
July 5, 2013
“No warm blood in me doth glow,
Water in my veins doth flow;
Yet I’ll laugh and sing and play
By frosty night and frosty day–
Little daughter of the Snow.

“But whenever I do know
That you love me little, then
I shall melt away again.
Back into the sky I’ll go–
Little daughter of the Snow.”

- An extract from Little Daughter of the Snow by Arthur Ransome.
You can read the short story here.

This book... it's a dream. An unhurried, ethereal, captivating dream - so captivating, that I cleared out my currently-reading shelf after the first two pages so that I could bask unhindered in the spell this book cast on me.

The Snow Child is a retelling of the Russian fairy-tale Snegurochka or The Snow Maiden. Eowyn Ivey's debut tells the story of an old childless couple in the Alaskan wilderness, who shape a little girl from snow during the winter's first snowfall. What happens thereafter is pretty obvious.

The first half of this book is absolute perfection. The Alaskan setting, the characters, the magic in the winter air - everything comes alive through Ivey's gorgeous prose. Somewhere past the halfway mark however, the story takes a detour from the original fairy-tale and things get impossibly more real with every page, finally ending on a note that's too bizarre to fully comprehend. The Snow Child constantly hovers on the border between illusion and reality, which may either be the book's strongest point or it's undoing, because if you think about the plot too long, many threads come untethered and threaten to unravel.

Jack and Mabel are some of the realest characters I've ever encountered. I cannot claim to exactly understand their anguish; I'm too young for that. But I could feel it - in the silence, in the breath of the narration, in the things that were deliberately left unsaid. I understand how the absence of something (or someone) can haunt a person like a presence. I understand why seeking an explanation may not be so important when the thing you most desire ends up at your doorstep.

On the contrary, the Snow Child herself, or Faina as she's called, never felt real to me. I'm guessing this was the author's intention. It works well in the beginning when Faina is more of an illusion, coming and going like a shadow. The second half adds (or tries to add) more substance to Faina - something I had trouble digesting - which is probably why it felt weaker in comparison.

The entire story has an undercurrent of sorrow to it. In the beginning, Jack and Mabel grieve for what they never had. Once Faina enters their lives, this grief takes the form of a quiet desperation; the dread of losing what they now have, even though Faina is more of a phantom-child than a real daughter.

Another thing that struck me was the occasional streak of violence. There are many animal killings in the book. Surviving in a landscape like Alaska would entail hunting for meat but in retrospect, I feel these scenes were strategically placed at intervals. Like the visual of blood on snow was meant to combat the fascinating idea of a child born of snow.

Not much happens in the book plot-wise. Some of the most enchanting parts are also the quietest. It's like peering into a snow-globe - the scenery does not change; yet, there's something so captivating in simply watching the glitter settle, and also this feeling of fragility, like how the world inside the globe could shatter in a single fall.

Fairy-tale or not, The Snow Child requires you to follow the rules of one: It doesn't matter why or how things happen; just that they happen. If you can do that, this book will take you on an enchanting journey.

A stunning, stunning debut. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
July 25, 2017
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a wonderful fairytale for adults(and whoever fancies it) set against the harsh backdrop of 1920s Alaska. Sometimes a little of what you fancy does you good ! And so I fancied a fairytale and it did me the world of good!!!

This is the story of Jack and Mabel a childless couple who move to Alaska to farm and to etch a living from the harsh and frozen land. A man and woman set in their ways, Jack the stubborn sort who is too proud to ask for help and Mabel who fears friendship and both mourning the loss of their only child in their own lonely way.

One night after a heavy snowfall they make a snow child and adorning the figure with mittens and scarf. The following morning the snow child has been trampled and the mittens and scarf are missing and the couple spot a small figure running through the trees. Mabel recalls an old Russian Fairy tale about a snow child coming to life and hopes she has made her longed for child that she can love. Is she real or a just imagined by Mabel and Jack?

There is so much to love about this story, I was so excited to read an adult fairytale, The details of Pioneer life in Alaska are beautifully written along with the description of the harsh winter environment and the animals naive to this country.

This is a novel rich in characters and prose and for a debut novel it is extremely well written. A tale of love and loss of friendships and hardships. A book that will stay with you long after you finish.

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