Monday, July 2, 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is the story of a childless couple in the Alaskan wilderness of the 1920s. Mabel and Jack moved to Alaska for a fresh start, but Mabel finds that the melancholy and depression have followed her, particularly through the bleak darkness of the Alaskan winter. Then, on the evening of the first snow, Jack and Mabel are caught up in a carefree moment and build a little snow child, outfitting it with mittens and a scarf. The next day, the snow child is gone, but a little blond girl appears in the snow near their cabin -- wearing the scarf and mittens. Is she some magical creature, born of sorrow and desire, or is there some more pragmatic explanation for her appearance? As the years pass, the little girl becomes almost like a daughter to Jack and Mabel -- but Mabel remembers an old fairy tale about a snow child . . . and she remembers that the tale never has a happy ending.

This retelling of an old Russian fairy tale is beautifully written, and perfectly conveys the bittersweet poignancy of the old story. The characters are nuanced, and the mystery of the snow child is left up to the reader's interpretation to some extent. I thought the relationship between Mabel and Jack struck all the right notes, and I was particularly sympathetic with Mabel's desire to work alongside Jack in their new home -- I've had that kind of strong mental image, and it never does work out exactly like one hopes! This is a beautiful little story, and I'd recommend it to fans of magical realism and retold fairy tales.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

1 comment:

  1. A hold has been placed! With any luck, I'll get it later today.