Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey (author), Debra Monk (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781461839064, 2012 (original publication January 2011)

In 1920s Alaska, Jack and Mabel, in their early fifties, are homesteading, building a new life away from the reminders of grief in their native Pennsylvania. It's a tough life. Jack is making slow progress clearing fields for spring planting. Mabel is bringing in extra money by baking for the hotel in town.

But it's November. They've this summer raised barely enough food to get through the winter, if Mabel can keep selling her pies. They're both feeling the strain, and the effects of the short, dim days.

And then the first real snowfall comes.

It's a perfect snow for snowballs and snowmen, and Jack and Mabel experience a rare, giddy happiness. They have a snowball fight. Then they make, not a snowman, but a snow girl--a snow child. Together they use rocks for eyes, sticks, for arms. Jack finds straw to make  hair, and Mabel uses crushed berries to paint the snow lips red. A scarf and gloves Mabel's sister sent her go to make the effect a little more realistic.

In the morning, the snow child has been broken, and the scarf and gloves are gone. But Jack and Mabel start to see something unexpected moving around their property, just out of easy sight.

This is very touching retelling of the Russian snow child fairy tale, of an old, childless couple who find a magical child and raise her, with all the love they've never been able to give to a longed-for child of their own. But Jack and Mabel aren't a mediaeval peasant couple, and Mabel at least recognizes all the ways this unexpected blessing can go wrong.

Ivey has done a masterful job in this adaptation. She's made Jack and Mabel a believably loving couple with human flaws, and put them in a frontier community with equally human but steadfast neighbors. Faina, the Snow Child, is as Other as she needs to be, and enough a little girl that her adoptive parents can love her for the child she is.

Recommended.

I bought this book.