Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dreaming of The Snow Child

Sometimes you come across a book that makes you think only someone who has lived here could possibly write this way. This is what I felt with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It is like falling into an amazing world where there are countless ways to describe snow and ice-- the beautiful description of this Alaskan wilderness landscape defies belief. Ivey lives in Alaska, and is truly an expert on her setting, to the smallest detail. She weaves these little gems throughout.

The story is adapted from a Russian fairy tale about a snow maiden. From the website, here is a synopsis of the book:
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for a couple who have never been able to conceive. Jack and Mabel 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 catch sight of an elusive, 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 leaves blizzards in her wake. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in the Alaska wilderness, life and death are inextricable, and what they eventually learn about Faina changes their lives forever.

This is Eowyn Ivey's first book, debuting in February 2012. The writing is outstanding. I loved the freshness of it, no cliches, almost as if the story itself came out of the snowy wilderness, having never read or seen another book. There is nothing about it that makes me think "I have seen this before." However, the emotions were familiar and the characters full of life. The author used an interesting technique when writing Faina's words, one which completely added to her mysterious nature.

I had to read this next section aloud to my daughter, lying next to me, just to hear the words. I will close with this for you, and encourage you to find this book.
It was like an extraordinary dream: Faina's quiet sighs and the occasional pop and crack of river ice and tree branches snapping in the cold; the stars everywhere in the broad, deep night, broken only by the jagged horizon of the mountain range. 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 wondered if those cold-burning specters might not draw her breath, her very soul, out of her chest and into the stars. 

When I finished this book, I felt as though I had just wakened from a long, cold, beautiful dream. My soul had been fed by this piece of perfection. 

Find out more at www.eowynivey.com.


  1. Great review! This sounds amazing. I have a nine-year-old granddaughter (reading all the Harry Potter books now) would it be appropriate for that age?

    1. No, there are too many adult themes, and besides that, not enough action.

  2. I, too, really loved The Snow Child and have had a hard time since picking up a next book to read. Such a fresh and strange (in the best way) story. I've now passed the book on, and hope that others find themselves falling into the same odd dream.

    1. Hi! I know what you mean-- it was so different from the other books in my pile. It felt strange to just immediately pick up something else and start in.