PAPERBACK; 417 P. TRANS. MARJA HELANEN BAZAR, 2013/2012 SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY
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.
The Snow Child is almost like a fairy tale retelling, except that it doesn’t just stop there. It is filled with stunning imagery of the wilderness of the Alaskan nature as well as of the intricate moments between an old couple. I picked up the book based on a recommendation and once I started reading it, I flew through it like a snow storm.
The story of The Snow Child begins about two years after an aging couple, Jack and Mabel, rooted themselves up and moved to Alaska. It is the 1920s and much of the country is still mostly untamed, encouraging people to try their luck in taming the land to farming and other pursuits. Neither Jack nor Mabel truly knew what to expect, and the emptiness and slow progress of the new homestead is slowly gnawing on their relationship. In addition, Mabel mourns the fact that she isn’t able to bare children and has to accept the life of a childless wife. Both feel that they’ve disappointed the other and channel their grief in different ways, but cold Alaskan nature that seems to separate them also has a way of forcing them to realise how much you do need your family and friends. As the first snow of the winter falls, Jack and Mabel build a small girl out of snow. The next morning the snow has disappeared and soon enough a small girl starts appearing at the skirts of the farm. Who is she and where does she come from?
The Snow Child is an absolutely wonderful, beautiful and heartwarming story about love, friendship, family and wilderness. The writing style is poetic and very engaging, inviting you to become more invested in the incredible lives of Jack and Mabel. It captivates your attention, excites the imagination and paints a picture of warmth with cool hues. The narration flows wonderfully and I must give credit to the translator for the seamless execution of the translation. The story is very moving and opens your eyes to the struggles that people went through during the habitation of areas such as Alaska. The effect of the story brought to mind The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, so if you enjoyed that, I’d highly suggest that you also pick this up. The Snow Child is definitely one of my favourite read of this year so far and I can’t wait to read more from Eowyn Ivey. I’d recommend the book to all readers who enjoy reading about the intricacies in family relationships and about nature relationships and the art of acceptance. You’ll fall in love slowly, and then all at once.
To believe, perhaps you had to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as your were able before it slipped like water between your fingers.