"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.
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.