A childless couple forms a girl from snow and, in answer to their longing, she comes to life. 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 out with an endearing set of characters ... Whether she really exists or not, Faina, as they eventually call her, will capture your imagination just as she captures Jack and Mabel’s...[Faina is] another in the growing crowd of fiercely independent girls we’ve seen in recent fiction including Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River and Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones ... Although Ivey teases us with surreal elements, they remain an elusive scent in these pages, which are grounded in the deadly but gorgeous Alaskan landscape ... Sad as the story often is, with its haunting fairy-tale ending, what I remember best are the scenes of unabashed joy. That isn’t a feeling literary fiction seems to have much use for, but Ivey conveys surprising moments of happiness with such heartfelt conviction.
The Snow Child is a reimagining of the Russian fairy tale “Snegurochka,’’ or “The Snow Maiden,’’ about an elderly couple who yearn for a child ... Ivey’s prose is beautiful and precise; her descriptions of the landscape evoke a wilderness that changes with the weather and reflects the emotional state of the people who live there ... It is Mabel, not the snow child, whose story is the heart of the book. Ivey’s portrait of this middle-age woman is loving and complex ... Mabel is not just a woman who longs for a child; she is a woman who longs to find her purpose in life. This is the source of her saudade, and through Ivey’s magical telling, her longing feels as real and mysterious as the winter’s first snowflake.
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 Ivey, suggests that if you face winter head-on — as do the childless homesteaders, Mabel and Jack, in this story about life on our northernmost frontier in the 1920s — you may find more hope after sadness than you had ever imagined ... Ivey's delightful invention hovers somewhere between myth and naturalism — and the effect this creates is mesmerizing ... Like Faina, the novel itself emerges lifelike and credible, with a delicate interface between fantastic story and realism that catches a reader's imagination from the beginning. Ivey describes an Alaska landscape that's harsh but wonderfully beautiful ... This terrific novelistic debut will convince you that in some cases, a fantastic story — with tinges of sadness and a mysterious onward-pulsing life force — may be best for this, or any, season.