I’m working on a post about the favorite books I read this year, and I was about 30 pages into The Snow Child when I knew it would make the list.
Jack and Mabel moved from Pennsylvania to the Alaskan frontier in the 1920s to become homesteaders. They are older, childless, and daring. The childless part was not intentional. They dreamed of a large family but it was not in the stars. Instead, they had the frontier and a ton of grit. Jake worked the land, Mabel tended to the cabin.
The work of homesteading was brutal, and there were times when the urge to quit felt stronger than their resolve to stay. But one night, during a first snowfall, Jack and Mabel felt playful, young even. They went outside and threw snowballs at one another, laughing, kissing, enjoying the abundant gift of so many snowflakes. With all that love and energy, they built a little girl out of snow, wrapped her in a scarf and mittens, and imagined what life would’ve been like had they been given the gift of children.
What happened next was crazy-making. The makeshift snow girl was gone and replaced by a live child, a snow fairy of sorts, wearing the scarf and mittens and accompanied by a wild, red fox. Her name is Faina, she whispers, and she lives out there – in the mountains, in the snow, somewhere Jack and Mabel have never seen.
If there was ever magic in a book, then it’s in The Snow Child. Even more enchanting than the story of an infertile couple who built a child out of snow is the seemingly effortless storytelling by Eowyn Ivey, an Alaskan native and longtime journalist.
Every word is completely believable. More so, the story provokes the sort of thought that only happens in deep despair and isolation.
The Snow Child is Ivey’s first novel and I am so smitten. Do read it. Read it this winter. Cozy up with a blanket and imagine you are in a cabin on the Alaskan frontier, then think of what would happen if a snow girl tapped softly on your front door and asked to come inside.