Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Think Jack London meets Alice Hoffman. The Snow Child (Little, Brown and Company, 2012) by Eowyn Ivey is a both a tale of Alaskan survival and a gossamer white wonderland of magical realism. I did not want to let this book go back to the library after I finished it. I wanted to hug it to myself, but then again, might that have melted the girl known as the snow child?

When we first meet the red-mittened little girl, she seems to be the sisterly incarnation of a snow sculpture built by Jack and Mabel, newbie Alaskan homesteaders, facing a tough winter during the 1920s. Mabel has never gotten over the loss of their stillborn baby and feels near suicidal. When a little sprite with blond hair begins to dance in and out of the forest surrounding their cabin, who knows if she is real? No one, including her husband believes Mabel's tales. But Mabel's heart has turned over and she is happy beyond belief to start nurturing the snow child in whatever way she can. At this point, I was unsure myself if the child was real, and it caused a fine air of suspense.

I'll give you this much: yes, the girl is real. Her name is Faina. She lives by her wits. She knows how to hunt and forage. She has raised a red fox from puppyhood. When Faina starts to spend time with Mabel and Jack (he comes to love her, too), threads of familial feelings grow amongst them. Mabel and Jack also make friends with a couple named Esther and George. One of their sons becomes Jack's helper. And so before our eyes, community is built, warm fires lit and many winters survived. Whenever Faina disappears for a season or two, as she is want to do, readers will worry, spellbound. What is to become of Faina. Can such a wild child be tamed? Should she be tamed? What kind of woman will she become? Read it and see.....

Eowyn Ivey is a native Alaskan and it shows. She has worked as a reporter and bookseller. I love the poetic sound of her name. She is named her after a Lord of the Rings Tolkien character. She and her husband are raising their children out in the Alaskan wilderness. I can't wait to see what Eowyn Ivey writes next!

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