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Book Review: The Snow Child

June 14, 2012

I recently read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a novel based on the Russian fairy tale by the same name.  In the book, the early 20th century older couple copes with their childless existence by leaving their families and moving to the harsh frontier of Alaska, where they become homesteaders, barely scraping by.  Despite their circumstances, their love for one another is so sweet and complete, and they find themselves playfully making a snow person.  In the morning, the snow person is gone and they find only the footsteps of a child.  They catch glimpses of this child, who appears to them to have been the product of magic, and eventually get to know her.  Like the snow child of the fairy tale, she is wild and cannot abide by the close, warm space of their home, so she lives outside in the wilderness.

I love how this child and the older couple, and even the good-hearted neighbors who live several miles away, introduce the reader to the untamed magnificence of Alaska’s wilderness.  It is so wild that the characters in the story are continually questioning their own perceptions as well as those of others.  It’s like they can’t trust themselves to see things clearly amidst all of the vastness of their physical surroundings.  In the end, it’s almost impossible to believe that the reality that they observe is truly real.  They themselves don’t know whether to believe their own perceptions.

It’s not fast paced, but I have to say that I found myself hooked early and enjoyed every bit.

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