A lesson on living – “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey

June 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm 6 comments

“The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey, Published in 2012

 I first must give credit to Claire, my fellow book blogger, who recommended this book and you should read her review because it is certainly better than mine.

This book is magic.  It has a sorrowful beauty that at times is breath-taking.  It is one of those books that I want to make people around me read just so I can talk about it with them.

Set in the 1920s, Mabel and Jack have been married for many years and decide, when venturing into their 50s, to start their lives over on farmland in Alaska.  The new life is hard and as the winter comes both begin to wonder if this was a mistake. There is a stark silence between them, much like the new landscape they live in.  Both Jack and Mabel struggle with their grief for the baby that they lost years before and they grieve for the loss of their changed relationship. They are alone but together in their loneliness.

One night during a beautiful snowfall, in a rare moment of tenative flirtation, Jack and Mabel find themselves throwing snowballs at each other and suddenly decide to make a snow child.  They fashion a young girl out of the snow and adorn her with bright mittens, a scarf and straw for hair.  In the middle of the night, when Jack gets up to use the outhouse, he believes he sees a blond girl at the edge of the woods. And in the morning both Jack and Mabel notice that the snow girl is gone with the scarf and mittens and, most notably, a child’s footprints only leading away into the woods.

Afterwards, a blond, skittish girl and her fox begin to visit the couple. At first she just watches them from afar but then begins to eventually speak to them and eat with them. She never stays long and always returns to the woods at night.  And through the years she comes and goes with the snow. Mabel is reminded of the Russian fairytale of “The Snow Child” – which also is about an elderly couple creating a child out of snow. Mabel’s heart stops as she realizes that, while there are many versions to this fairytale, none of them end happily.  Unable to bear the thought of losing another child, she begins to try to hold tighter onto her real life snow child but finds that when she does that the child pulls away from her.  The lesson of the Snow Child is a hard one to learn.

Eventually, both Jack and Mabel have no choice but to live in the moment.  They begin to love each other again and, while they know deep in their hearts that they are destined for more loss and pain, they allow their snow child to heal the pain that they have both carried silently for so long.  No longer afraid of happiness or the unknown they see the beauty in the landscape that before they found so barren and they see the beauty in the magic that even the most simple things in life bring.

This is Ivey’s first novel and I cannot imagine how her writing could get better. Her descriptions of the snow, the land, the cold is stunning.  Her subtle writing techniques are impressive.  She uses quotation marks when the characters are talking to each, except when they are speaking to the Snow Child – and with this small change in writing she makes the reader question if the Snow Child is real or just a figment of Jack and Mabel’s grief and loss.  Ivey’s gift for storytelling is rare and exciting.

Ultimately, this story is a gentle reminder that we all must embrace life even in the cold, breathless moments of loss.  That while we cannot control what comes, we can love and open our eyes to the magic that is the very essence of living itself. The lesson of the Snow Child is a hard one to learn but it is so very important.

“We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?”

More reviews to check out:

From Collected Miscellany 

From Blurb

From Susan K. Mann


Entry filed under: June 2012 reads. Tags: , , .

A threesome (of suspense novels that is) Sometimes pretentious snobbery deserves to be punished – “A Room with a View” by E.M. Forster

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nella  |  June 4, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I’ve heard about the book and now, after reading your review, am very keen to get it. Thanks. Nella

    • 2. Emily C  |  June 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      I think you would really like it. Let me know.

  • 3. Claire 'Word by Word'  |  June 6, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Thank you for the reference Emily, I love reading your reviews and admire your style, we all come to it in a unique way and that is the pure joy of it – to just write how we experience it – all equally valid and wonderful. My words are no better or worse than any other, but I also know how it is to be in awe of others and for me that includes you 🙂

    • 4. Emily C  |  June 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Claire – this is very kind of you!! I love reading your reviews as well and am really happy I took your advice and read this book. Take care and happy reading!

  • 5. Rachel Mary Reviews...  |  July 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Lovely review. Definitely going to read this one now!

    • 6. Emily C  |  July 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      Thank you. Let me know what you think once you read it.


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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