Book Review — The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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This article was previously published on ing Magazine is Michigan State University’s student-run publication covering life, arts, entertainment and more.

Winter is often referred to as a time of quiet reflection; for some, the season can evoke melancholy, and for others, hope. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey perfectly captures this haunting ambiance of winter in which characters grapple with both love and loss.

“She knew the snow and it carried her gently… She knew the land by heart.”

Inspired by a Russian folktale, The Snow Child transports readers to the haunting Alaskan wilderness in 1920, where characters Jack and Mabel hope to heal and start anew. Despite loving each other unconditionally, they are burdened with memories of their stillborn baby, which causes them to drift apart. After the first snowfall, they decide to build a child out of snow together.

“Sculpted in the white snow were perfect, lovely eyes, a nose, and small, white lips. She even thought she could see cheekbones and a little chin…How could she speak her surprise?”

Jack and Mabel are puzzled to find the snow child gone the next morning; however, they catch a glimpse of a young girl running through the woods beside their home. What follows is a dark, enchanting mystery surrounding the sudden appearance of this girl, who calls herself Faina. As Jack and Mabel spend more time with her, readers are faced with several questions: Who exactly is this child? Is she a blessing delivered specially to the couple? Or is she simply a figment of their imagination, created to remedy their grief?

“She seemed both newly born and as old as the mountains, her eyes animated  with unspoken thoughts, her face impassive. Here with the child in the trees, all things seemed possible and true.”


We later learn of a Russian fairytale that Mabel read when she was younger called “Snegurochka,” which translates to “The Snow Maiden.” The tale tells of a couple longing for a child. The “snow maiden” is half-human and half snow and ice, who melts with the changing seasons. This causes Mabel to question the parallels between her and Jack’s experiences and the story of “Snegurochka:” Is is possible to rewrite their own story?

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“Life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.”

Overall, The Snow Child is the perfect winter read. In addition to the novel’s whimsical tone, it explores universal human experiences such as grief, uncertainty, love and adventure. It’s difficult not to develop a close bond with each character as you follow their journeys; Ivey intertwines magical realism, fantasy and drama into a captivating story that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

“I guess maybe I don’t want to be warm and safe. I want to live.”


To read an interesting interview with Eowyn Ivey, click here.


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