Summary and book reviews of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child

A Novel

by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2012, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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About this Book

Book Summary

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart. In a moment of levity 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.

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.

Chapter 1
Wolverine River, Alaska, 1920

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.

She had imagined that in the Alaska wilderness silence would be peaceful, like snow falling at night, air filled with promise but no sound, but that was not what she found. Instead, when she swept the plank floor, the broom bristles scritched like some sharp-toothed shrew nibbling at her heart. When she washed the dishes, plates and bowls clattered as if they were breaking to pieces. The only sound not of her making was a sudden "caw, cawww" from outside. Mabel wrung dishwater from a rag and looked out the kitchen window in time to see a raven flapping its way ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. When Mabel first arrives in Alaska, it seems a bleak and lonely place to her. Does her sense of the land change over time? If so, how?
  2. Why are Jack and Mabel emotionally estranged from each other in the beginning of the novel, and how are they able to overcome that?
  3. How do Esther Benson and Mabel differ in temperament, and how does their friendship change Mabel?
  4. The first time Garrett sees Faina in person is when he spies her killing a wild swan. What is the significance of this scene?
  5. In what ways does Faina represent the Alaska wilderness?
  6. Jack and Mabel's only child is stillborn. How does this affect Mabel's relationship with Faina?
  7. When Jack is injured, Esther and Garret move to their farm to help them. How does this ...
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    Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards
    2013

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

My experience of reading this novel was extremely personal. It touched me deeply in a way that I'm not sure it would have had I not identified so closely with its emotional core. So I feel affection for The Snow Child that belies my disappointment in the novel as a whole. Eowyn Ivey's writing is enchanting, a pure pleasure to read. She fleshes out the landscape with striking and sensuous detail, saddles her characters with palpable pain and then blesses them with fleeting moments of contagious bliss. Every one of them is delightfully likeable, if not loveable. Despite the intimacy of their emotional lives, Ivey keeps her characters at a slight remove, which underscores their fairy-tale underpinnings, making them wistful and sweetly sad, rather than deeply, seriously sorrowful.   (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A fine first novel that enlivens familiar themes of parenthood and battles against nature.

Library Journal

Starred Review. A fluid, absorbing, beautifully executed debut novel; highly recommended.

Stylist Magazine (UK)

This is a wonderful book.

TARA Magazine (Norway)

Can melt a frozen soul.

Author Blurb Christie Hickman, S Magazine (UK)
In her debut novel, Ivey has achieved what can often take half a lifetime for other writers. She has re-created an entire world - both physically and emotionally - and married them into a unique narrative of heart-stopping beauty... It's a triumph.

Author Blurb Robert Goolrick, New York Times bestselling author of A Reliable Wife
If Willa Cather and Gabriel Garcia Marquez had collaborated on a book, The Snow Child would be it. It is a remarkable accomplishment - a combination of the most delicate, ethereal, fairytale magic and the harsh realities of homesteading in the Alaskan wilderness in 1918. Stunningly conceived, beautifully told, this story has the intricate fragility of a snowflake and the natural honesty of the dirt beneath your feet, the unnerving reality of a dream in the night. It fascinates, it touches the heart. It gallops along even as it takes time to pause at the wonder of life and the world in which we live. And it will stir you up and stay with you for a long, long time.

Author Blurb Keith Donohue, New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Child
The Snow Child is enchanting from beginning to end. Ivey breathes life into an old tale and makes it as fresh as the season's first snow. Simply lovely.

Author Blurb Sena Jeter Naslund, New York Times bestselling author of Ahab's Wife
A transporting tale... an amazing achievement.

Author Blurb Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek
The Snow Child is a vivid story of isolation and hope on the Alaska frontier, a narrative of struggle with the elements and the elemental conflict between one's inner demons and dreams, and the miracle of human connection and community in a spectacular, dangerous world. You will not soon forget this story of learning to accept the gifts that fate and love can bring.

Author Blurb Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been
Eowyn Ivey's exquisite debut transports the reader away to a world almost out of time, into a fairytale destined to both chill and delight. Her portrayal of an untamed Alaska is so detailed you can feel the snowflakes on your own eyelashes, even as her characters' desperate quest for, and ultimate redemption by, love will warm your heart.

La Repubblica (Italy)

Enchanted, poignant, poetic.

Reader Reviews

CarolK

Achingly beautiful.
How is it that someone who struggles with fantasy and more so with sci-fi can embrace fairy-tales so willingly? There may be a fine line between the two but the best way I have seen the differences described is that fairy-tales are handed down ...   Read More

Nikki

Achingly beautiful!
This was an enchanting, magical story. Don't miss it!

lamh

transporting
Definitely sets the scene of Alaska Wilderness. Not yet finished with the book, but love it so far.

Sandy

The Snow Child
From the very start I was absorbed into the Alaskan landscape with wonderful images painted by the author. Her descriptions of nature made me homesick for the New England of my own childhood. The characters came alive in my mind and are still with...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Snegurochka

Snegurochka

The Snow Child is based on a Russian fairy tale, Snegurochka. As told in the English versions (Arthur Ransome's "Little Daughter of the Snow," from Old Peter's Russian Tales and Andrew Lang's "Snowflake," from The Pink Fairy Book), a childless couple builds a girl out of the snow in a fit of playfulness, and she comes to life.

Snow Maiden Ivey's book more closely follows Ransome's version, which also plays a part in the novel. After Faina appears, Mabel recalls a fairytale that her father, a professor of literature, used to read to her from a Russian text. When she recovers the book, she returns to it again and again in both fear and hope, mining it for clues and answers to Faina's fate. If you don't want to find out what...

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