Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Summary: After Jack and Mabel suffer the loss of their unborn child, they escape to the Alaskan wilderness to grieve and avoid the comments and pity from those around them. The Alaskan wilderness at the turn of the century, however, is a much harsher landscape than they dreamed for their farm. One particularly cold evening as a fresh snow blankets their home, Mabel and Jack decide to build a girl out of the snow. The next morning, Jack notices the snow-girl gone, including the hat and mittens they used to build her. He is startled later to see a young child mysteriously appear and disappear over the next few weeks wearing that same scarf and mittens. Jack and Mabel both realize their loneliness could play into this “vision” but are also bothered at how real this girl seems.
For our February selection, our group chose a perfect winter mood book. Ivey’s description of the Alaskan landscape, particularly in the winter was beautiful and hard at the same time. The opening line sets the stage very well: “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.”
I’ve heard of Alaskan winter days that only have a few short hours of sunlight. Just the thought makes my heart ache a bit. But when trying to escape the deep grief Mabel suffered, I could imagine why this move would make sense. At times this book battled hard topics. Grief strangles people so differently and it was interesting to explore this through the eyes of Mabel and Jack.
Even in suffering you can see a subtle glimmer. Honestly, if you weren’t suffering, you might not even see the glimmer because you aren’t looking so intently for the bit of hope your heart so desperately needs. This book isn’t all despair. Our group loved the dynamics with neighbors Esther and George and the transformation in the relationship between Mabel and Jack as the story progresses. How one soul can change the course of another is astonishing.
Though I tend to read pretty widely, I was initially put off by the “fantasy” description. I don’t really love creatures that don’t exist and worlds that are bizarre. This, however, did not feel unbelievable. In fact, my favorite part of our great book club discussion centered around this fact.
Personally, The Snow Child hit a homerun. Ivey’s description of the Alaskan wilderness and relationships among the characters was so beautifully done. Surprisingly, this was Ivey’s first novel and I look forward to reading more from her. For others in our group, mostly everyone enjoyed it with all the symbolism and literary “clues” woven throughout (we love having English teachers in our group!). Everyone agreed it was a bit slow to start and then picked up steam toward the end. Though I enjoyed the setting for a Chicago winter, I think some people dreaded picking the book up to be reminded what was out their front door.
The Snow Child is a perfect for a winter read, offers opportunities for lively discussion and a little mystery. Be sure to check out this fantastic title for your next pick!
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What is your feeling about fantasy books? Do you like to read a book that matches your setting/season/time period?