Monday, November 5, 2012
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This charming book set in Alaska in 1920 is the first novel by this author--though the wonderfully descriptive language was so rich, it was hard for me to believe that this was her first book. However, she was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. So, she knows her stuff!
Jack and Mabel, two homesteaders who are childless and drifting apart from the loneliness and weight of the work this environment entails just for survival, in a moment of levity after the season's first snowfall build a child out of snow. The next morning, it is gone--but they find a young, blonde-haired girl who calls herself Faina. She seems very comfortable and at home in the woods. A real child of nature. Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child--who really could have stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale--and they soon grow to love her. Who is this child? Where does she come from? Is she real, or produced from the imagination of two lonely childless people in the middle of a harsh and unyielding landscape?
I won't give away any of the book's plot here, but the thing that permeates this book from start to finish are the lovely descriptions of the harsh magical environment of Alaska--the spartan setting, the desperate struggle for existence, the river ice, pine boughs, mountain herbs, the smell of wet wool and blood, and the snow...always the snow. You truly feel like you are right there experiencing everything this couple does.
I enjoyed this book very much, despite the fact that it is not really plot driven with the usual conflicts and tensions. What it is though, is a large dose of magical realism wrapped up in a beautifully rendered story that is emotional and thought provoking.