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Fairytales on the Alaskan Frontier, Review of Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child”

By Crossstitchyourheart @TMNienaber

Fairytales on the Alaskan Frontier, Review of Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child”If you’re looking for a book to cool you down during the last few dog days of summer, look no further than Ivey’s The Snow Child. I saw this book reviewed in “O” magazine and while it sounded interesting I hadn’t put it at the top of my reading list.  Then I saw it on the staff pick racks in the library and pick it up, well, pretty much because it was there and all I had to do was grab it.  I’m glad I did.  Thumbelina has always been one of my favorite fairytales from childhood and this book reminded me of Thumbelina meets Alaska type story, although make no mistake, this book is written for adults and while their are elements borrowed from other legends, it is unique and beautifully written.

After losing their only child in infancy Jack and Mabel decide to try their hand at homesteading in Alaska.  Mabel thinks the move will bring them closer together and allow them to have a clean

Fairytales on the Alaskan Frontier, Review of Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child”
start, to move past the whole in their lives where a child should have gone.  Unfortunately the move does little to ease the pain of being childless and the whole becomes more and more apparent.  Then, on the first snow of winter, Mabel and Jack build a snow-child.  Jack carves a delicate face into the snow and Mabel dresses it with a scarf and gloves.  The next day Mabel and Jack see a child out in the woods and believe that, in this small child, all their hopes and wishes have been answered.

The Snow Child combines elements of a historical fiction novel and a fairytale.  The Alaskan frontier is described in painstaking detail and the snow, icy, wind, and cold all become real.  Ivey has also done an excellent job of portraying homestead life, and Jack and Mabel’s cabin because a home not only for their snow child but for the reader as well.  Mabel’s only female friend out on the frontier, Esther, also adds another dynamic to the homestead life, showing what women are capable of out in the wild and, to some extent, giving Mabel the strength to transform herself from a proper city woman into one that can not only survive in Alaska but who can get her hands dirty.

Fairytales on the Alaskan Frontier, Review of Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child”
The novel is divided into three sections.  The first deals with the creation/appearance of Faina, the snow child, the second with her childhood, and the third with her grown up.  The first section seemed to move the fastest and took the shortest amount of time to get through.  The second book seemed to drag a little although the development of the relationship between Jack, Mabel, and Faina is beautifully done.  The third section was my least favorite of the book and while this is the section where most of the plot happens it seemed to rush through to the conclusion without as much detail or development as there had been in the previous sections, leaving the relationship between Garrett and Faina a little empty.

The book’s ending is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time and shows that sometimes you build a family without realizing it.  Ivey has shown great potential in this novel and her ability to describe a scene that draws the reader in is phenomenal.  This book is the perfect combination of reality and fantasy, with questions that remain unanswered and leave room for the reader to decide exactly what happened for themselves.

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