Book #9: The Snow Child

Before last week, if someone had told me what I needed in my life was another fairy tale retelling novel, I would have laughed at them and rolled my eyes.  I mean, we’re over it, am I right?  You, me, my kids, all the people.  No more fairy tales, unless they’re really awesome.  Oh wait, I guess I would if they’re really awesome. Enter The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

Yes, this novel is based on a Russian fairy tale with the same name, but I’d never heard of it.  It’s roughly the same at The Gingerbread Boy, but more sad, less silly.  But the book isn’t really about the fairy tale.  It’s about loss, and love that changes over time, and the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.

Mabel and Jack have been married for about twenty years but have had no children, though they did suffer through the tragedy of a stillborn baby.  They’ve moved to Alaska to homestead around 1920, hoping to leave behind their sorrows and make a new life.  You learn all this in the first chapter and I was worried that this book was going to weigh me down.  My extended family has experienced the loss of two babies and it’s hard to relive those feelings, so I appreciated it when Ivey treated it with such care.

When Mabel and Jack playfully make a snow child one night, only to find it gone the next day, you know that this is where the story will become fantastical, yet Ivey keeps bringing us back to reality.  Yes, the girl disappears into the mountains after showing up mysteriously all winter.  Yes, the girl seems to have some connection to nature.  But Jack helps bury her dead father and she has pictures of her parents, before her mother died of consumption.  The author keeps giving us grounded reality that she’s real, but I kept wondering the whole book, is she really?  There was just enough fantasy to keep me guessing.

Beautiful and wonderful, but also heart-breaking, I look forward to my book group’s discussion of it.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars.  Just so you know, this isn’t a Middle Grade or Young Adult retelling.  This is definitely adult fiction and while not explicit per say (there are a few moments where people are left to themselves in the bedroom), it portrays adult relationships very accurately, more than a younger reader would understand or need to read.


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