Customer Reviews: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists)
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Showing 1-10 of 59 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
on December 31, 2012
This book began as a solid four-star book. The writing was beautiful and the older-couple Jack and Mabel were real and dynamic. Enter the Snow Child. She is eccentric and cagey, but also whimsical and other-worldly. She is magical enough that you can almost allow your non-believing self to wonder whether the Snow Child is real or not. Unfortunately, as the answer to this question became increasingly clear, there is no longer any conflict in the novel and I began to wonder why I was still reading. I wish I hadn't. The events in the final third of the book felt trite, cliche and ridiculously predictable. I attribute the high goodreads rating to the writing, which is well-done. But while this started out as a story worthy of four stars, it ended up being your standard 2.5 star read.
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on September 30, 2013
Alright. I've never actually been moved to write a review for a book before, but this one has made me feel so many negative ways I have to express my opinions--hopefully in a less hateful way than the other one and two star reviews can go.

I read a lot of books. I am a fairy-tale buff; they are my bread and butter. I picked this up because it was strongly marketed as a fairy tale retelling.

Note that the things I touch on will contain spoilers. I have sectioned them off.


I like the premise--is the girl real, is the girl not real? The concept was interesting, and I think maybe in more capable, sure hands it could have gone better. The fact is it's never clearly explained which it is, which would have been okay if not for the completely contrived, stuck-on third part, which ruined the entire atmosphere entirely.

I didn't hate the book before it, but I didn't enjoy it, either. It seemed to drag, and the characters were sad caricatures, I felt. Perhaps they went too far towards Archetypes, as fairy tales are wont to do. There was little to no actual plot, which would have been okay if various other elements were played up to garner my interest.

Other people have mentioned the gory hunting and skinning scenes. I have to question why this was necessary. The reader understands early, yes, okay, the environment is extremely unforgiving. Stop beating the reader over the head with more and more graphic depictions of hunting and trapping every few pages. What is the purpose? It interrupted the flow and was extremely jarring to me.

Just when I was thinking maybe the Faina thing would be extrapolated on, another menial event that had no bearing on the plot happened. Repeatedly. It became taxing.

~~~~Definite spoilers below~~~~

My biggest problem of all, however, are the multiple, glaring loose ends that are never fully explained--they are more like forgotten. Other reviewers have touched on this as well. The girl doesn't like to be inside, by fire. This is made a Big Point of in the novel, she can't stay inside too long or she overheats. The one character -tells- the Love Interest never to light a fire near here, ever. But then she lives in a cabin, indoors, with a fireplace and is seemingly fine for a while. Huh?

She can't stay during the Spring, she'll melt, hence she leaves every Winter, which is the Major Plot Point of The Story--but suddenly she can in the third part? She even sticks around long enough to get hitched? And she seems fine until much, much later? Huh?

She could stick around in Spring, but when it's (implied) she melts, she's outside during a freezing cold night? Huh??

Garrett shoots her fox, which is supposed some allegory for her hunting partner/friend/guardian, and she doesn't really seem to care much? In fact, it's never mentioned again with any substance. It felt like a really easy way to remove the fox to make way for dog later in the story. (And the motives for shooting her fox never were explained to my satisfaction)

Faina's past was never adequately explained either way--which, again, would have been okay if not for the third part of the book leaving her entire past-plot-hole hanging there wide open.

Whatever feeling I was holding onto for this book ending on a crescendo died the instant I saw the utter cop-out I felt the third part was. It completely killed the parts of the Faina character I actually liked, the parts that harkened back to the magical realism of the character and the wilderness. Getting married and pregnant--just...what? She somehow succeeded in making the most fantastical character in the book the most domestic, and somehow, of everything she wrote, that broke my heart the most. Somehow to me she succeeded in killing the dynamism of the character in one fell, young-adult-novel esq romance swoop.

(Full disclosure--I am particularly critical of romance for the sake of romance in novels. I prefer there to be a smart build up, and a very good reason for it in the plot. So this rubbed me all sorts of the wrong way.)

Faina was the one character I actually ended up caring for, and suddenly she makes a complete 180 in personality. It was heart-wrenching and jarring at the same time.

I think this book would have been 'okay'--firmly at the 3 star level--if it had stayed where it was going before part 3. But then part 3 and the epilogue swoop in and create a strange disconnect between the other 2 parts of the novel. It's as if the ending to another (more classic, that is to say, less thought-out) fairy tale got copy-pasted to the end of the tale, and sent to print that way. Extremely disappointing.

I really was not impressed, and bottom line would not recommend this to anyone that prefers story with some fleshing out.
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on April 17, 2012
I am delighted that so many readers enjoyed this hugely successful story, but I have to admit that I was really disappointed.

The central idea was interesting and the setting was strong, with good descriptions of the enveloping Alaskan wilderness. The novel's main characters, though, were grindingly dull and inept, and completely unsuited to life in the wilds. It was hard to believe in them as pioneer farmers when they didn't even know how to wring a chicken's neck or plant seed potatoes, and the dialogue between them was frequently banal. It was a relief when their lively neighbour Ester appeared to inject a bit of interest.

Worse still was the couple's reaction to finding the young child living in the arctic chill of the forest beyond their cabin. Jack's concern was that she didn't have any toys to play with and Mable's response was to make her a coat covered in snowflakes, for heaven's sake!

The chief flaw, in my view, was making the little girl so real. The novel could have been a quasi fairy-tale with an element of mystery as to how much the "child" might have been a product of the couples' imaginations. However, she was clearly no mystical, ethereal sprite of the forest but a real, flesh and blood child, and a rather insipid one at that.

I will gloss over the rest of the hugely improbable storyline, especially in the latter part of the novel.

Maybe this is a "woman's book" and, as a male, I was missing something?

I stuck with it till the end, but was left with the impression that it was all frustratingly naive and, frankly, pretty silly. I realise,though,that I am very much swimming against the majority view here!
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on February 2, 2013
I really had looked forward to reading this book, because I enjoy mystical stories. "Peace like a River" comes to mind as an example. I think Eowyn Ivey is a talented writer and she did a great job of describing the Alaskan frontier. I was also drawn into the lives of Mabel and Jack and their struggles to survive homesteading in the wild. When the snow child is introduced, the book becomes more fascinating. But the last third of the book departs from the mystical to more of a story one would see on Lifetime Movie Network. Once Garrett enters the scenario, the book becomes very predictable and I found myself skipping pages just to find out if my predictions would be correct and, sad to say, they were. I think the author loses her way in this story and it's too bad. I think some serious editing could have made this a much better story and far more rewarding in the end. Instead of becoming serious literature, the book ends up being rather "fluffy" I would not recommend this to my reading pals.
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on April 21, 2012
I decided to read this book based on the overall 4+ star rating, which was a mistake. I should have read more of the reviews before I bought the book. The descriptions of the Alaska landscape are wonderful, but the story, which is based on a Russian fairy tale, is flat, boring amd repetitive. I think it comes across this way because it's hard to turn a 20 page fairy tale into a novel. The snow child, Faina, is a one dimensional character who never really comes alive on the page. She might as well be Snow White or Sleeping Beauty for all the personality she has. If you are not a reader of fantasy or magical realism, you probably want to skip this book.
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on April 20, 2012
Based on the promising reviews and the strong recommendation of a friend, I read this book. Being a disciplined reader, I had to force myself to finish it. I found it to be overly sentimental, repetitious, and boring. A careful editor might have easily removed about 100 pages without ruining the integrity of the story. The magical aspects of the story quickly became predictable. The characters were stereotypical, static and flat. This novel is an overlong fairytale that never quite enchanted nor engaged me. It felt like it might better fit in the Young Adult category. Also, I'm not sure that language such as "Are you still in?" (page 189) was common in 1920. The descriptions of the Alaskan frontier and wildlife were interesting but could not salvage this novel for me. I've been duped again by glowing reviews.
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on February 10, 2013
I read the reviews and they said that this was a book that is a keeper on your shelf and one that you pass along to your best friend. I didn't think it was either. The other reviews will tell you the plot. I found the story ok, not really compelling or heart warming and it just didn't fit together. If she is of the supernatural realm, then the marriage and child just don't fit into the story and it wasn't compelling enough to suspend that disbelief. Not a bad read, but not a memorable one.
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on July 8, 2013
This is an interesting blend of fairy tale and historical fiction. Generally it sounds like a book that I would highly enjoy. However I found the non-fantasy characters, Jack and Mabel, too unbelievable to really enjoy this story. It is too hard to believe that they naively moved to Alaska assuming that it would be some sort of adventure paradise. It was nicknamed "Seward's Icebox" when the secretary of state pushed for the land's purchase for the United States. I doubt that people were unaware of what the conditions were going to be like in the far north province. And especially considering that they were middle age, it seemed bizarre that they would start a homestead in a savage land, no matter what personal tragedies in their past that they want to escape from.

I was also really frustrated with their reactions to the appearance to the Snow Child. It just seemed insane that they would let her live in the woods, in Alaska, in winter. The reader may be aware of her magical origins, but there is no reason for Jack and Mabel to treat her as anything but a real, flesh and blood orphan. I just could not get into the spirit of this novel.
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on July 4, 2016
I liked the opening chapters and loneliness of the old couples' childless marriage. But the dialog felt trite, predictable, and dull. I enjoyed the book more when I stopped reading each sentence carefully and switched to a quick skim of the contents-slowing down only when it took an unexpected turn. I don't understand the other reviewers' comments about the surprise ending. It seemed predictable throughout. I prefer books where every word, every sentence counts. Feels more like young adult lit to me.
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on February 20, 2015
Based on a European fairy tale about a childless man and woman who fashion a little girl of snow and see her come to life, this book takes much the same path -- but is set in the Alaskan wilderness during the 1920s. Being very familiar with the fairy tale, I could see what was coming much of the time, even though Ivey wove in unusual and at times provocative details relevant to homesteading in Alaska. I do a good job of suspending disbelief in my reading, and I was entirely OK with the magical elements of the book, but there was a potent sense of the maudlin that kept popping up. Mabel's relationship with the matriarchal Edna was entirely conceivable, but Edna was an over-the-top stereotype. Couldn't the author see this happening? I also thought Faina's final retreat to the wilderness could have been dealt with in a more lyrical way (I mean, if we have magic at our disposal, why not make the most of it?). Another reviewer said that the ending was disappointing and predictable, and I would have to agree. My main reaction was one of stunned surprise that this book was a Pulitzer finalist. WTH?
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