I've been so hesitant to review this book. The reason being that I absolutely adored it from cover to cover. I loved it like I so infrequently love a book. And I wanted to be able to do this book justice. I usually enjoy most of what I read, but not at this level. What Eowyn Ivey has written is a thing that goes deeper. That has multiple layers to the story, that's entrenched in folk lore and in family, in grief and in loss and in love. And the reader experiences all of that beauty first hand.
The Snow Child tells the story of Mabel and Jack who have come to live in Alaska to find a new way of life in the early twentieth century. It is a hard life, a life that demands a lot of work. Plowing fields and farming one's own food, hunting game, making one's own clothing and food, living off the grid, this is a life of self sufficiency. The one thing Mabel and Jack have always wanted was a child, yet Mabel has been unable to have children. It is an unspoken strain on their marriage, the grief that goes along with this.
It's obvious that the two share a deep love for one another, but it's also obvious to the reader that there is a strain on the marriage and that running away to Alaska is not a fix all. One night, after a beautiful exchange between the two, they create a snowman after the first snowfall of the season. The snowman quickly becomes a snow girl and they realize that they are making the child they never had. When the next morning arrives, the snow child is gone, but both Mabel and Jack catch a glimpse of a young girl running through the woods throughout their home.
The young girl is known as Faina and her story is an interesting one that I'll leave you to learn for yourself. But the story that she introduces to us is a whole mess of emotions. Can she be the daughter that Jack and Mabel always wanted? Will she ever be able to fit in with the other town citizens? Can she fill the void that's been empty for so long in their marriage?
This is an absolutely beautiful story beyond what I can describe. The whole book has the feeling of winter if that makes any sense at all. The feeling of cold and melancholy and grey skies, but it's peppered with the warmth of coming into a heated cabin and sitting before a hot meal. Jack and Mabel are both flawed, but beautiful characters in their own and by the end of the book, my eyes were flooded with tears for the both of them as I felt that I knew them both like family.
The writing in this story just blew me away. Some of the descriptions will take your breath away. Some will leave you crying. Some will leave you holding your breath just from the beauty of her capturing a moment so very well. I'll leave you with a beautiful moment of Jack and Mabel sharing a bit of happiness in a bleak situation:
Mabel was at the window again. The snow fell faster and thicker. As she watched, Jack walked out of the barn carrying a lantern, and the snow eddied around him in the circle of light. He turned his head, as if he had sensed her eyes on him, and the two of them looked at each other across the distance, each in their pocket of light, snow like a falling veil between them. Mabel couldn't remember the last time they had so deliberately gazed at each other, and the moment was like the snow, slow and drifting.
When she first fell in love with Jack, she had dreamed she could fly, that on a warm, inky black night she had pushed off the grease with her bare feet to float among the leafy treetops and stars in her nightgown. The sensation had returned.