For all who find magical power in nature or who grew up with fairy tales, Eowyn Ivey’s Snow Child is a must read. The book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a winner of the UK National Book Award and with good reason. Ivey mixes the harsh reality of the 1920 Alaska wilderness with the magic of the Russian fairytale so deftly that the reader is left to wonder where one leaves off and the other begins.
To escape the grief of their childlessness, Jack and Mabel seek solace in the Alaska wilderness, only to be overwhelmed by the reality of a winter without food in the wild backcountry. A moment of levity breaks through despair; they have a snowball fight and build a snowchild, complete with mitten and scarf. The next day, the child is but a pile of snow and the mittens and scarf are gone. Enter the Russian fairytale of the Snow Child. Whether the child each sees flitting at the edge of the woods is real or is a creation of their snow-crazed minds is never certain, nor does it matter, for her increasing presence enlivens their lives and, with the help of a neighboring family, gives them strength to rise from despair to love of the Alaskan wilderness. Ivey brings that wilderness to our eyes with detail so breathtaking we follow into the world of the fairytale without protest.
The resolution—whether the child is destined to live the life of the fairytale, I will leave to the reader. It is, in any case, a wonderful read for any who are willing to play in the vortex of imagination and reality.