The Snow Child

This magic realism novel (389 pages) was published in November of 2012 by Back Bay Books. The book takes you to 1920s Alaska. David read The Snow Child and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.

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The Snow Child

A Novel

Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920 is not a welcoming place. It’s brutally cold and bleak. Beautiful, yes, but challenging and dangerous. But that might make it exactly the right place for Jack and Mabel to strike out for a new life.

Jack and Mabel’s marriage is crumbling under the strain of despair. Unable to have the child they crave, heartsick, and breaking under the weight of their Pennsylvania farm, they head to a homestead in Alaska, ready for a new life. In a rare moment of playfulness, they build a child of snow in their yard during the season’s first snowfall. The next morning, the snow child is gone. But they catch a fleeting glimpse of a little girl moving amongst the trees.

With a red fox always at her side, the child appears and disappears, beguiling Mabel and Jack, who come to love her as their own daughter. As they try to understand who this child is and what her relationship to the snow might be, they learn more about themselves and each other — and, along the way, find they have become Alaskans.

Author Eowyn Ivey grew up in the northern wilderness of Alaska. Her evocative prose makes characters of the seasons, especially winter, the allure and danger of which looms over almost every scene. As you read, your shoulders will hunch against the cold, and you’ll smell the pine of the trees, the fug of the lichen, the freshness of the water.

This story was inspired by a Russian folk tale and a touch of magic shimmers over the narrative, as the story of the snow child — otherworldy, elusive — plays out against the perils of survival in Alaska.

As the glow of the cabin windows turned to flickers through the trees and then to black, her eyes adjusted and the starlight alone on the pure white snow was enough to light her way. The cold scorched her cheeks and her lungs, but she was warm in her fox hat and wool. An owl swooped through the spruce boughs, a slow-flying shadow, but she was not frightened. She felt old and strong, like the mountains and the river. She would find her way home. — Eowyn Ivey

keep reading

In this ep, we discuss the surprises of life in Alaska and recommend books that transported us there: a vivid memoir, two novels where snow is a character, a story set in commercial fishing, and two foodie books.

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