Despite its standing on the bestseller lists, I doubt I would have ever picked this book up if my sister hadn't gifted it to me with rave reviews that sounded something like "best book I've read in years!!!!". It's not that it looks like a bad book, but I spent 2012 thoroughly engrossed in fantasy and most of it rereads of my favorite series so I haven't been in the right mindset for a more literary book. I am so so so glad that this ended up on my to-be-read shelf. And my sister was right, this is one of the best books I've read in years. Probably the best bit of literary fiction I have read since The Poisonwood Bible over a decade ago, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is going into my permanent collection for sure.
|(Image via Goodreads)|
This book is chocked full of raw emotion. From the very first page of the very first chapter right up to the very last page of the epilogue this book made me feel things. Powerful things. Overall it's a bittersweet book; I've heard it called sad, but I don't think that's quite right, there is happiness and new beginnings to celebrate after all. But if you are at all emotional, so human, if you're human, be prepared for some tears. I was absolutely sobbing, but I do cry at almost every emotion.
The story is set in 1920s Alaska and follows Mabel and her husband Jack as they attempt to save their homestead and their marriage from collapse. In a moment of pure, completely out of character whimsy (there's a lot of whimsical-ness in this story) Mabel starts a snowball fight with Jack that culminates with the creation of a snowman they have shaped to look like a little girl. The next morning, the snow child is destroyed and Jack glimpses her bright red hat and mittens on a flesh-and-blood child running wild in the nearby forest. The journey that follows touches many lives and teaches Mabel and Jack a lot about themselves and each other.
The snow child folktale from Russia and eastern Europe is woven beautifully throughout. The Alaskan wilderness is as much a character as it is a setting. And the plot is completely unpredictable; I'm rarely surprised at the culmination of a tale and I was in the dark on this one until the very end. All I can say is Eowyn Ivey, congratulations, this is magic.
Read this one for sure.