Reviewed by Ambrea
Set on the banks of the Wolverine River of Alaska in the early twentieth century, The Snow Child recounts the experiences of Jack and Mabel, homesteaders on the frontiers of the far north, as they struggle to survive another year in grief and another winter. However, on an especially cold night with the first snow of winter, Jack’s and Mabel’s lives change forever when they meet a little girl named Faina, a mysterious orphan who has managed to survive in the inhospitable wilderness—a little girl who seems to have sprouted from the snow.
The Snow Child is a hauntingly beautiful story. Intricate and emotional, Eowyn Ivey’s novel pulls together all the elements of a great novel by combining cultural legends with simple, human psychology and amazing literary skill. Although The Snow Child borders on tragic, it combines evocative imagery, heart-warming depth, and fantastic character development to create a wonderful story that kept me glued to its pages.
In particular, I was impressed by the great care Ivey took in forming her characters, giving them an emotional breadth and depth that I found refreshing. I loved the humanity Ivey imbued in her characters: Jack and Mabel are flawed, but they are human—and they are compassionate, introspective, and unique. They mature, they evolve and they grow.
On a personal level, I also loved the way The Snow Child weaves together all the elements of legend and myth—i.e. Little Daughter of the Snow by Arthur Ransome and “Snegurochka” of Russian myth—and fairy tales, but remain true to a singular story. While it borrows from older works, it also manages to forge a path of its own and tell an intriguing and singularly riveting tale of sorrow, joy, and life.
Although I enjoyed The Snow Child immensely, I was consistently plagued by a sense of impending calamity. From the instant readers meet Faina—in fact, from the minute she starts to become like a daughter to this wonderful, tragic couple—one begins to wonder about and worry over Faina. She is like the snow from which she appears to spring: beautiful, bright, but frighteningly fleeting.