In Eowyn Ivey’s magical debut novel The Snow Child, a couple creates a child out of snow. When she appears on their doorstep as a little girl. That’s essentially what happens in Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child,” but the author has transported the story to her native Alaska and fleshed it. A sad tale’s best for winter, as Shakespeare wrote. The Snow Child, a first novel by a native Alaskan journalist and bookseller named Eowyn.

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It is the Portuguese word saudade: It isand Mabel and Jack have left everything and everyone they know behind in Pennsylvania, going west to start over. She had imagined that in the Alaska wilderness silence would be peaceful, like snow falling at night, air filled with promise but no sound, but that was not what she found. Instead, when she swept the plank floor, the broom bristles scritched like some sharp-toothed shrew nibbling at her heart.


When eowwyn novel begins, Mabel is facing her second desolate winter on the frontier.

The Snow Child

Her desperation drives her to walk out to the Wolverine River in an attempt to drown herself before a new season of hell sets in. Mabel survives her suicide attempt – the river is too frozen for her to break through. A few days later the first snowfall comes and with it, paradoxically, new life. Mabel and Jack build a snow girl with grass for hair, cranberry juice for lips, and a red scarf and mittens for the cold.

The next day the snow child is gone, but something strange begins to happen: Signs of a real girl appear around the homestead, her tracks leading through the forest. Finally the girl reveals herself to Jack and Mabel, coming into their cabin for dinner.

Perhaps it was not a dream after all. Or have Mabel and Jack just spent too much time alone with their grief?

The little snow snnow comes and goes with winter, but in the end she always melts. I think if I ever tell it to my grandchildren, I will change the ending and have everyone live ever after. We are allowed to do that, are we not Mabel? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow?

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When the snow child, whose name is Faina, enters their world, life does get better. They make friends with another family in the desolate valley, and with their help they survive the winter and plant a successful crop. Yet the question lingers: Is Faina just a figment of a dream?

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – review | Books | The Guardian

And tbe so, is their happiness itself real? No fields, fences, homes, or roads. Most Popular in arts Right Arrow. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.

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