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3.21.2012

A Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey


"As Jack knelt in the bloody snow, he wondered if that was how a man held up his end of the bargain, by learning and taking into his heart this strange wilderness-- guarded and naked, violent and meek, tremulous in its greatness." 

IF you feel like you need to grab something to cap off that uneventful winter before heading into spring.. do it.  IF you feel like you've always wanted to pack it up and live out of a log cabin IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.. do it.  IF you enjoy hunting, or snow, or the cold, or trees or anything remotely associated with those listed previously.. do it. 

Seriously.

Set in the late 19th century, Jack and Mabel have moved to Alaska in hopes of taming the wilderness and setting up a homestead. The move, a chance for Jack to try his hand at a different landscape, is more of an attempt to escape the painful memories, for Mabel. Desperately in want of a child of her own, Mabel's grief is only heightened by the harsh landscape in which she finds herself surrounded. However, the two find their lives changed when they see a flutter amidst the snow once morning.  Faina, the snow child, mysteriously appears from the wood one morning, quickly becoming a source of joy and distress for the couple. 

The story moves at a slower pace than many of the books you often find topping the lists of most anticipated novels. However, the beautiful detail of the harsh, Alaskan landscape during this period of time is quite captivating.  Senses alive, I could feel the crisp, cool air and the flutter of slowly falling snow flakes. And while Ivey may have simplified some of the more taxing issues present in this lifestyle, I felt that she also provided another, more gentle perspective of this vast, untamed land. And believe it was completely intentional, as the audience understands Mabel and Jack's desire to make the best of the situation, to accept their lot and move forward with their lives.

However, as uplifting as this may appear, The Snow Child is filled with despairing content. The story is told through the eyes of both Jack and Mabel. While we understand the creeping depression that is always attempting to overcome Mabel, and see the same situations through Jack's eyes in a different light, there's an understanding that both are deeply affected by years of suppressed grief and regret. This element strongly draws attention to the intimacy and secrecy that coexists in a relationship. Furthermore, while Faina brings hope and enthusiasm to their lives, this happiness is fleeting for the majority of the novel.

The cast of characters, lovable in their own right, made it much easier for me to invest the time (leaving me wishing the story would never end). While I'll admit that elements of the story left me with more questions than answers, I felt there was a lot to learn in such a short novel.  The importance of friendships, and love, and faith in oneself/partner are all examined here.

Ivey seamlessly weaves fantasy and realism together to create a tale that is far from anything I've picked up lately. I'll be the first to admit that I'm generally not a fan of this type of writing, but it definitely worked here. I enjoyed the references to the Russian folklore and look forward to uncovering more about the original.

If you're looking for a fast-paced, pick-me-up I'd skip it for now... but you're certainly missing out on something special. 






17 comments:

  1. I already wanted to read this, but reading your review moves it to the top of my wish list. I'm just so intrigued by it! The weather is the furthest thing from cold right now, but I think I could still slip into wintery read. Excited to hear you enjoyed it!

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    1. Hannah,
      It's certainly a must read, but I would say that if you're feeling like picking it up when it's cooler outside, you could wait until the Fall. This is probably a tired review as the novel is blowing up in the blog world, but I had to! Glad to have found your blog and look forward to future content. I don't know many bloggers from this part of the US!

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    2. Knowing how many books I already have on my to read list, it probably will be fall before I get to it! I'm so glad you found my blog because I love yours! I don't know many other bloggers from the South either, let alone Georgia. I'm actually right outside of Atlanta - such a great place to live :)

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    3. Hannah,
      Thanks! I've met many that have lived here but have since moved on. I'm in Atlanta, near Piedmont Park, and agree that it's such a fun place to spend my days. Looking forward to reading more of your reviews!

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  2. This really was a lovely book. I'm glad you stressed that it's not fast-paced because when I picked it up I expected it would be. But I didn't mind that it was a little slower. I felt like the pace matched the overall feeling of the book. There is something about the cold and snowy landscape that lent itself to a lagging, drowsy feeling.

    I'm going to keep my eye out for more from Ivey.

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  3. Brenna,
    I agree that the pace really complimented Ivey's tone. I don't know if it's the best recommendation for a springtime/summertime read, but I think people could squeeze it in before either seasons are full force. I definitely think we can expect to see more from her.

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  4. I'm so excited to read this - I'm 29 in the hold list for it at the moment. I like slow pace and I'm interested in all the descriptions of the setting. I think I'll love it :)

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    1. Sam,
      I can't wait for you to get it either so we can share! I think you'll enjoy it if that's what you're really looking for!

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  5. I'm glad to hear this one is worth the read! I have been in the hold queue at the library for quite some time - I believe I'm up to about 4 now. Oddly it's been in the 80s here for the past 2 weeks, but it's the midwest, we could get another snowstorm before May. Or a wicked tornado. Or both. Who knows with this crazy weather.

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    1. You're so close! We've been going back and forth down here as well.. maybe not snowstorms so much. I predict some pretty dangerous heat waves this summer with it being 80 in March. I can't wait to see what you think about the book!

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  6. I have to squeeze this one in after my Orange reading. It sounds divine.

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    1. Carrie,
      I would LOVE to read your review!

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  7. Youve kinnda now sold this to me. Ive been eyeing it up for a while but I like slower paced stuff anyway and the setting sounds wonderful (although I hate the cold)

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  8. Jessica,
    I'm not a fan of cold weather either, but I've always been fascinated by Alaska. If you enjoy a book with a slower pace, you're definitely in for a treat! Enjoy.

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  9. Wow, this sounds fantastic. I'm not exactly the type who likes to rough it, but the human element against the harsh surroundings makes this so interesting. It's going right on the TBR list!

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    1. Col,
      Yeah, I can actually say I've never even gone camping (I'm working on changing that this summer). I'd say wait until the hype wears down and pick it up during the Fall.

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  10. Some of moments of disconnect between Mabel and Jack were just so achingly beautiful and heartbreaking. I had to put the book down several times to just take it all in. This story will stay with me for a long, long time. Great review!

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