The Snow Child

Written by Eowyn Ivey
Review by Susan Zabolotny

This story opens in Alaska in 1920. The main characters, Mabel and Jack, are a childless middle-aged couple who have left the city to take up homesteading in this demanding climate. We learn that they have deliberately chosen a life of solitude in the hope of leaving behind the grief of their stillborn child ten years earlier. The way they come to embrace this loss and their understanding of each other is a beautiful thing.

It’s the first snowfall of their second winter and, in a moment of levity, they build a child in the snow with facial features, a real scarf and mittens. The next day their lives are transformed when the hat and scarf are gone and small footprints lead into the woods. Thus begins a tale of isolation, survival, friendship, love and a fair amount of fantasy. Their snow child is real, but so many of the things she does could not possibly be, yet she becomes the child of their longing and they come to accept her odd behavior without question.

Faina, the snow child, comes and goes for many years. She never appears in the summer, but always returns with the first snow. They become close friends with their neighbors, the Bensons. Garrett Benson, the youngest son, is a godsend when Jack suffers an injury and he helps keep the farm going. They see him as the son they never had. He meets Faina and they fall in love. Her parents are forced to accept the fact that she has become a beautiful young woman, but can she commit to such a relationship?

This story is very well done. I enjoyed the mingling of fantasy and reality and the descriptions of the Alaska’s challenging climate. The characters are so well fleshed out. I highly recommend this book.