The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey caught my attention recently while looking for a new book to read against the cold of winter. At that moment snows had captured the surrounding mountain tops where I live and spring seemed too far away. Surrendering to the inevitability of the season I ordered the book and was delighted when it arrived. I liked the book immediately. (Oh, joy!) Set in Alaska in the 1920’s the story focuses on a childless couple named Jack and Mabel who have left family and familiarity to brave the harsh realities of homesteading. Their relationship, as you might imagine, has suffered under the challenges. As the first snowfall of the season arrives they are struck by a sudden childlike impulse and together they build a child out of the falling snow. The next morning they are surprised to discover the snow child is no where to be found, but they glimpse a young girl, wearing the very gloves and scarf Mabel had placed on the snowchild, running through the trees.
The Snow Child is based on the old Russian folk tale “The Snow Maiden”, with which you might be familiar. Indeed, Eowyn Ivey became inspired when a children’s picture book based on the Russian story arrived at Fireside Books, an independent bookstore in Alaska, where Eowyn worked. “I wasn’t familiar with the story,” she says, “so I glanced at the description on the back cover.” As she’s returning to the counter “an unexpected, exhilarating sensation came over me, as if I had discovered the key to a secret door.”
It is this magic that descended on Eowyn that snowy evening in Alaska, that envelops her interpretation of The Snow Child. It persists from first page to last. (Isn’t it wonderful when you find a book you do not want to put down?)
Snow Child graphic courtesy of Aranda Dill
If you are wondering why I might choose this book for Book Notes on the Plant Whatever Brings You Joy blog, the first novel I have ever reviewed, you will not be hard pressed to understand that gardeners are those most in touch with the Earth. The idea of a couple homesteading in the wilds, charting out a home amidst the unbroken nature, only to find in their lives a child who knows far more about traversing their lands than they, readily appeals. If we are gardening with any depth we know that the canvases we claim as our own are, in fact, not. They are lands that were there millions of years before us, and will remain millions of years after we are gone. To regard the lands with which we are entrusted as an isolated parcel is naive, shallow and unconscious. It is by gardening with the full knowledge that that piece of land, regardless of its size, is part of a vast ecosystem through which many creatures traverse that we are most rewarded. The more we are able to include all of life, to honor its many forms of existence, the more magic we will bring into our own lives.
The mysterious child that Jack and Mabel encounter calls herself Faina. She hunts with a red fox at her side. We have much to ponder about her wondrous life in the woods and what she might teach us, just as Jack and Mabel discover, as they struggle with and embrace, her presence in their lives.
I’d say buy this book and enjoy!
Love and reading blessings,
Book News: My book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden is now available on Amazon, dearest readers!
Posted on March 1st, 2013 by Kathryn
Filed under: Book Notes