Book Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. 

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. (From

I was drawn to this book by the romance of the publisher’s synopsis and the contrast between the harsh, brutal reality of life on a 1920’s Alaskan homestead and a fairytale child. With its roots in Russian folklore, the story of The Snow Child doesn’t disappoint and is both magical and heartbreaking. It has the feel of a real old fashioned myth and is breathtakingly beautiful to read.
The characters of Mabel and Jack are painfully realistic and well developed. From the very beginning you can sense their acute pain and longing. Little moments and glances between the couple drive home the despair they feel at their crumbling marriage and my heart went out to them. Mabel’s isolation in particular was depicted so perfectly I could feel it myself. Considering we meet the couple in middle age, I think the author’s ability to establish such a strong bond and history between the pair was nothing short of remarkable. Despite their difficulties, the tenderness and love they share is beautiful in a very subtle and believable way.
The setting too was also nothing short of breathtaking. Eowyn Ivey manages to get across the beauty and ferocity of the Alaskan wilderness and life for those trying to not only survive but also earn a living and raise a family in their unwelcoming surroundings. The contrast between the fairytalesque Faina and the brutal honesty of this harsh existence is simply stunning. I’m going to say as little as possible about the enigmatic Faina, who is central to this story, for fear of spoiling the book for anyone else. I will say that I loved her and she stole my heart completely.
The Snow Child quite simply blew me away. The writing is beautiful, evocative and atmospheric; it’s difficult to believe that this is Ivey’s debut and is certainly a huge accomplishment. Both heartrendingly sad and eerily, subtly magical, this is an enthralling read from start to finish. This book is perfect for being swept into another world, curled up in front of a blazing fire and allowing hours to pass you by as you find yourself lost in the pages. I loved everything about this book and recommend it highly. 

Published by Headline February 2012…go pre-order it/add it to your wishlist NOW!

My copy was received from the Amazon Vine program

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

  1. I hadn't heard of this one – and you have me wanting to blow off everything else I have to read and pick this up immediately.

    I'm super intrigued by the time period/folklore mix as well. Definitely sounds original.


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