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33 reviews

The Snow Child: A Novel
by Eowyn Ivey

Published: 2012-11-06
Paperback : 416 pages
114 members reading this now
33 clubs reading this now
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46 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 29 of 33 members
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall,...
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Introduction

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Editorial Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: In her haunting, evocative debut Eowyn Ivey stakes her claim on a Russian fairy tale, daring the reader--and the characters--to be lulled into thinking they know the ending. But, as with the Alaskan wilderness, thereâ??s far more here than meets the eye. On the surface itâ??s the story of a childless pioneer couple running from their East Coast lives and struggling to survive in the harshest of climates while also attempting to reconnect with each other; but itâ??s also the story of the spring of hope that bubbles out of new friendships, of the slow realization of love for a surrogate child, of the ties between man and nature. Ivey spares no words in describing the beauty and the danger of her native Alaska, bringing the sheer magnitude of the wilderness alive on every page. With the transparent prose of a fairy tale and descriptions to put nature writing to shame, The Snow Child immerses readers in a 1920s Alaska that will draw them back again and again. -- Malissa Kent

Excerpt

Chapter 1
Wolverine River, Alaska, 1920

Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point, after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbor children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind, and in their place there would be silence. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Questions:



When Mabel first arrives in Alaska, it seems a bleak and lonely place to her. Does her sense of the land change over time? If so, how?
Why are Jack and Mabel emotionally estranged from each other in the beginning of the novel, and how are they able to overcome that?
How do Esther Benson and Mabel differ in temperament, and how does their friendship change Mabel?
The first time Garrett sees Faina in person is when he spies her killing a wild swan. What is the significance of this scene?
In what ways does Faina represent the Alaska wilderness?
Jack and Mabel?s only child is stillborn. How does this affect Mabel?s relationship with Faina?
When Jack is injured, Esther and Garret move to their farm to help them. How does this alter Jack and Mabel?s relationship?
Much of Jack and Mabel?s sorrow comes from not having a family of their own, and yet they leave their extended family behind to move to Alaska. By the end of the novel, has their sense of family changed? Who would they consider a part of their family?
Death comes in many forms in The Snow Child, including Mabel giving birth to a stillborn infant, Jack shooting a moose, Faina slaying a swan, the fox killing a wild bird, Jack and Mabel slaughtering their chickens, and Garrett shooting the fox. Why is this one of the themes of the book and what is the author trying to say about death?
What do you believe happened to Faina in the end? Who was she?

Suggested by Members

Why do you think all interactions with Faina were without quotes.
by Wvgirlygirl27 (see profile) 03/06/13

Why is death one of the themes of the book?
Discuss the relationship between Mabel and Esther and how it influences each of them.
What do you believe happened to Faina in the end? Who was she?
by nanovsky (see profile) 09/19/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Praise:

"If Willa Cather and Gabriel Garcia Marquez had collaborated on a book, THE SNOW CHILD would be it. It is a remarkable accomplishment -- a combination of the most delicate, ethereal, fairytale magic and the harsh realities of homesteading in the Alaskan wilderness in 1918. Stunningly conceived, beautifully told, this story has the intricate fragility of a snowflake and the natural honesty of the dirt beneath your feet, the unnerving reality of a dream in the night. It fascinates, it touches the heart. It gallops along even as it takes time to pause at the wonder of life and the world in which we live. And it will stir you up and stay with you for a long, long time." (Robert Goolrick, New York Times bestselling author of A Reliable Wife).

Book Club Recommendations

The Snow Child
by kellykelly (see profile) 04/10/14
At the meeting we had snowball cookies and a salmon spread for crackers. For a drink we had cranberry cordial.
Alaskan Theme
by critzyj (see profile) 11/26/13
Several of the women in the group brought Alaskan themed food. We had smoked salmon, clam soup, and a rolled chocolate cake that looked like a log from the wilderness.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "What really happened?"by kellykelly (see profile) 04/10/14

We had a good discussion and everyone still wondered what happened to Faina.

 
  "The Snow Child"by heathergaugler (see profile) 03/08/14

This book was different than other books our club had ever read. I really enjoyed viewing the scenery of Alaska through the author's eyes.

 
  "The Snow Child - a bit too cold"by nbaker (see profile) 02/21/14

Mabel and Jack and childless couple in the heart of Alaska are having trouble making a go of farming. Following the death of their stillborn child, they seem to just go through the motions of life. Then... (read more)

 
  "The Snow CHild"by sumacc (see profile) 02/18/14

A well written retelling of a Russian fairy tale set in the 1920's. The ending leaves room for interpretation as to what really happened. That makes for good discussion for the book club.

 
  "The snow child"by jcieslik (see profile) 02/14/14

 
  "The Snow Child"by dogdmc49 (see profile) 12/05/13

Loved the story, loved the glimpse into life in Alaska

 
  "Realistic Fairtale"by critzyj (see profile) 11/26/13

This was a very interesting book about a childless man and woman who make a child out of snow. Then the child comes to life. In some ways she seems real. In other ways she is like an illusive child... (read more)

 
  "Snow Child "by bboulo (see profile) 11/18/13

Very moving book between fairy tale and real life, death and living, old and new, non living vs living, wild vs tame, safe vs loving. Author did incredible job with yin and yang of living in "bush" Alaska... (read more)

 
  "The Snow Child"by teachgiftedkids (see profile) 09/27/13

This was a very different type of book which our book club chose. It's part fiction, part fantasy. It's about communication with others, learning to know oneself, and loving those whom we don't understand.... (read more)

 
  "The Snow Child"by hayerhb (see profile) 09/27/13

It was a good read. Mostly read like a fairy tale.

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