The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
Reagan Arthur Books, 386 pages
Jack couldn’t believe his eyes. He woke early that morning, and it was barely light, but he knows what he saw. A little girl was dashing between the trees, wearing the same red scarf and mittens that Mabel had put on their snow child yesterday, the one they built together in memory of the child they had lost. A little girl, alone but for the company of a red fox, running around their farm on this very cold winter morning, and not another house for miles around.
She wouldn’t come inside, not at first. She was a creature of the Alaskan wilderness, a wild thing herself, and that was not her way. At first, she watched Jack and Mabel from a distance and showed her affection by leaving presents of fresh meat on their doorstep when they weren’t looking. Slowly, she came nearer and nearer, until one day, she crossed the threshold and came in the house for a meal.
Nobody in town had ever seen the child. Nobody in town believed she could be real. This was Jack and Mabel’s first winter in Alaska; they had come up north to find some peace after the arrival of their stillborn son, and Alaskan winters can be hard on newcomers. Well-meaning friends wondered if Jack and Mabel were believing in an impossible dream. Mabel herself wondered if this little girl could be the snow child from the Russian fairy tale she read when she was young, the story about the little girl who sprang to life at first snowfall and disappeared with the spring thaw. But dream, fairy tale, or reality, this snow child came to Jack and Mabel every winter, and for those long, cold, months, she gave them comfort.
The Snow Child blends magic realism with taciturn prairie sensibilities to tell a story of hope and survival in the far north. It’s a beautifully unusual mix and it works, especially on long January evenings when the reader herself is filled with all the anticipation and despair that northern winters bring.