“Alaska gave up nothing easily. it was lean and wild and indifferent to a man’s struggle,…” (pg. 61)
Loss is universal. Most have experienced sorrow in their lives and spend a lifetime trying to figure how to react.
Mabel chose to find solace in the Alaskan Mountains. Along with her husband, Jack, she sees a chance for a fresh start after a decade of being reminded of her loss. Neither Jack nor Mabel realize what the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s has in store for them. Their fresh start turns into a bleak nightmare and on the verge of giving up, hope comes to them in an unlikely form: a little girl named Faina. Who is this fairy-like child that comes from the wildness? As the old couple grapple over the identity of the small child she in turn brings love to their lives.
“Not only was the child a miracle, but she was their creation.” (pg. 87)
I think what makes The Snow Child successful is how the fantasy elements are incorporated tastefully. Magic must be earned. Too many novels rely too heavily on fantasy and their story fails. Magic shouldn’t always be there for the sake of magic. Ivey uses these elements to create an air of mystery around Faina and open Jack and Mabel up to the wonders of their new home.
Another major accomplishment of the novel is the setting itself. Ivey’s love for Alaska is rich and pure. Alaska’s untamed beauty and terrifying wilderness are on display in The Snow Child. Alaska is just as much a character in the story as Mabel, Jack or Faina. The sophisticated descriptions not only chilled (I was under a pile of blankets while reading!) but fascinated and inspired.
The Snow Child turned out to be a surprisingly beautiful novel despite its bleak beginning. Sometimes we forget that we aren’t alone in our struggles. Mabel felt that way and ended up isolating herself in the wilderness. Our couple realizes that it’s not isolation and time that heals wounds, but the love and family we build around us.
In the Margins:
- Due to sickness this review was delayed so there will be two book reviews this week. Huzzah!
- Next book: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (look for it this friday!)