The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey
Eowyn Ivey was raised in Alaska, was educated there, and lives there. Ivey was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 for this, her first novel. Particularly because this is a debut novel, I read it very critically, but it is excellent. It takes some skill to spin a compelling tale of marriage and survival in Alaska in the 1920s out of a Russian folk tale of The Snow Maiden, Snegurochka, in which the sweet Snow Maiden is born out of snow and comes to bring joy to a childless couple, until she eventually melts and disappears. This is different from The Snow Child folk tale, in which a merchant returns home after an absence of two years to find his wife with a newborn son, whom she says came from a snow flake. The merchant raises the boy until he sells him into slavery, telling his wife that the boy melted. And readers who recognize these allusions in the title and cover illustration will also immediately have a sense of impending doom in the story. Whether like the maiden or the child, it cannot end well.
However, the novel is filled with terribly beautiful descriptions of the Alaskan landscape, and the other lead character – the snow. The characters are beguiling, the end – while expected – is nonetheless enough to make you swallow a sob, and though you know it is a bit of fantasy, it is still a quite magically enchanting read.
About the author
Eowyn (pronounced A-o-win) LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. Her mother named her after a character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Eowyn tweets here and her blog, Letters from Alaska, is a real treat – so pretty!
Prior to her career as a bookseller (at Fireside Books in Palmer, Alaska) and novelist, Eowyn worked for nearly a decade as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. Her weekly articles about her outdoor adventures earned her the Best Non-Daily Columnist award from the Alaska Press Club.
Eowyn earned her BA in journalism and creative writing through Western Washington University’s honors program and studied creative nonfiction in the University of Alaska Anchorage’s graduate program. She is a contributor to the blog 49Writers and a founding member of Alaska’s first statewide writing center.
The Snow Child was informed by Eowyn’s life in Alaska. Her husband is a fishery biologist with the state of Alaska. While they both work outside of the home, they are raising their daughters in the rural, largely subsistence lifestyle in which they were each raised.