Monday, January 14, 2013

What I'm Reading: The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey)

The Snow Child is one of this year's books for my book club. I think it's the book for March, so I'm a little ahead of myself, but it has such a winter theme that I wanted to read it during winter.

The story: Jack and Mabel are an older married couple attempting to homestead in the wilds of Alaska during the 1920s. Mabel wanted to start a new life together after spending ten years grieving the death of their only baby. One day, they spontaneously make a snowman (but it's a snowgirl, really) and the next day a little girl shows up.

My bookmark is on page 365 out of 538 in the large print version, which is the beginning of Chapter 35.

Thoughts: This book clearly draws on an old Russian fairy tale (which makes an appearance as a book Mabel remembers from childhood), but the way it's written is open to many interpretations, not all of which are magical. Plus, these are very realistic characters from a time in history that has always fascinated me, so it's kind of historical fiction, almost like a Little House on the Prairie book for grown ups. Mabel and Jack are working the land and trying to make it against all odds, as Alaskan homesteaders had to do. Their neighboring family, with it's no-nonsense husband and wife and three sons, has captured my heart more than the little girl has.

At first I thought it would be a slow novel, but it really draws me in, every time I pick it up. I love the characters, and the descriptions of the land. We don't get much snow in this part of Oregon, so it's lovely to sit on the couch looking out at the rain falling, and read about life in the lonesome, snowy woods, when neighbors stop by bearing dinner to share.

A favorite passage: (The neighbor, Esther, has arrived with dinner). "Should be enough chicken and dumplings for all of us. Lynx and dumplings, I should say, but it just doesn't have the same ring to it. Guess we could call it 'kitten and dumplings.'" Esther laughed and flung her coat across the back of a chair.

"Lynx? You've cooked a lynx?"

"Oh, don't make that face. Have you ever had it?Absolutely, positively the best meat you'll ever taste. Garrett had it live in a snare, so he killed it clean and brought home the meat. Guess we raised him up right after all."

Soundtrack: It's been a while since I've done a soundtrack for a book, but this song, River by Sarah MacLachlan, definitely came into my head during a particular scene, early on in the book. I like this video with its Wisconsin winter scenes, though it isn't Alaska, and the melancholy song goes perfectly with Mabel's mood at the beginning of the first winter.


  1. I'm not surprised it's so good. It's a Reagan Arthur Book!

  2. Bravo to good books based on old tales. Heather Tomlinson, Philip Pullman, & Donna Jo Napoli are some of my favorite authors who also tweak fairy tales. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  3. Is this an adult book or YA? I love retold fairy tales.

  4. @Mia, It's an adult book, but in my opinion it would be totally appropriate for a teen reader.

  5. I've had this one on my shelves for a long time now. I was totally smitten with the premise when it first arrived, but like so many other books, once it hit the TBR it stayed there. Eek!