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501 of 515 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty, Ferocity, Joy and Sorrow
Having lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for 44 years, I was very anxious to read this book. It has an Alaskan theme and is touted as being written in the style of magical realism. I love literary fiction that is rich in characterization and language and this book has an abundance of both. It is bound to be one of the best books I'll read in 2012. The story is beautifully...
Published on January 26, 2012 by Bonnie Brody

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145 of 163 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A letdown
First, I will agree with others in that this was a book I could not put down, I stayed up a good portion of the night to finish it. The fantastical elements are, for the most part, believable and beautiful--many things in life straddle the line between reality and magical. However, I totally agree with the reviewer who wrote: "Although the novel starts out strong,... the...
Published on March 4, 2012 by Ellen Marie Murphy


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501 of 515 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty, Ferocity, Joy and Sorrow, January 26, 2012
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This review is from: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
Having lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for 44 years, I was very anxious to read this book. It has an Alaskan theme and is touted as being written in the style of magical realism. I love literary fiction that is rich in characterization and language and this book has an abundance of both. It is bound to be one of the best books I'll read in 2012. The story is beautifully rendered and rich with metaphor. I could hardly bear to put it down.

Mabel and Jack are homesteaders who come to Alaska rather late in their lives. They are both close to fifty years old when they begin their Alaskan venture near the Wolverine river way in the backcountry. The story opens with Mabel contemplating suicide. She describes Alaska after her failed suicide attempt as a place of "beauty that ripped you open and scoured you clean so that you were left helpless and exposed, if you lived at all". She and Jack are growing apart rather than closer and she misses him desperately. Slowly, they become friends with their closest neighbors, Esther and George, and this helps Mabel some. However, she says of Jack, "they were going to be partners, she and Jack. This was going to be their new life together. Now he sat laughing with strangers when he hadn't smiled at her in years".

Mabel comes from an intellectual family - her father is a professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She feels lonely and empty in her cabin. Just before they came to Alaska she gave birth to a stillborn boy. This was one of the primary reasons she wanted to get away from her family. She felt they were always looking at her and judging her as wanting, talking about her as not being a strong woman. Jack is busy with clearing and farming the homestead and he won't let Mabel help with this. He sees her job as staying in the house to cook, clean and bake her pies. They are barely making ends meet and Jack is contemplating taking a part-time job in a mine next year. Their situation is dire.

The wilderness is described in an awe-inspiring ferocity of beauty and fear. "Wherever the work stopped, the wilderness was there, older, fiercer, stronger than any man could ever hope to be. The spindly black spruce were so dense in places you couldn't squeeze an arm between them, and every living thing seemed barbed and hostile." "Alaska gave up nothing easily. It was lean and wild and indifferent to a man's struggle." Alaska's beauty is also described wonderfully - the northern lights, the wild animals, the rivers, waterfalls, snowfalls and alpenglow. "Maybe that was how a man held up his end of the bargain, by learning and taking into his heart this strange wilderness - guarded and naked, violent and meek, tremulous in its greatness."

The work is too hard for Jack and Mabel is suffering from cabin fever. One night, however, in a lightness of spirit, they decide to build a snow child. It turns out to be a girl with a lovely face, blond hair, blue eyes and chiseled lovely features. Mabel gives it mittens and a scarf as well. Shortly after building the snow child, they begin to see a child darting in and out of the trees. The snow child they built has disappeared and the child they see running around is wearing the same clothes as their snow child had been given. Is she real or is it a hallucinatory figment of cabin fever and overwork? Mabel and Jack see the child, follow her footprints in the snow and even get to meet her. However, no one else has ever seen her and there is no other family living near them with a girl child. Where has she come from and where does she live?

The story loosely follows the metaphorical fairy tale of The Snow Child, Mabel's favorite story from childhood. However, Mabel is fearful of the story's outcome and does not want to look at the coincidences too closely. The girl they meet is named Faina - Fay-ee-na. They begin to grow close to her and their lives change. "Mabel was no longer sure of the child's age. She seemed both newly born and as old as the mountains, her eyes animated with unspoken thoughts, her face impassive. Here with the child in the trees, all things seemed possible and true."

This is a life-affirming book, one that is close to the heart. It is never silly or maudlin. The writing is rich and lyrical, the characterizations full and complete with each person known and mysterious at the same time. We follow each of them through joys and sorrow. In many ways this is a book of perfection, one that is consummate and incomparable to any other I have ever read. I know it will live on in me and that I will have to re-read it. Thank you Ms. Ivey for bringing me back to Alaska through your eyes. What a wonderful way to see this world.
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182 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fall into The Snow, January 31, 2012
This review is from: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
Jack and Mabel live in a time where children were expected in a marriage. Mabel so wants to be a mother but she has only had one pregnancy and that ended in an early delivery of a child that did not survive. She and Jack didn't talk about it they just thought a fresh start was in order so they pulled up roots and started a homestead in Alaska. She with one set of dreams, he with another. Both not expressing them, both not talking, both afraid of the past, both trying to escape, both still yearning for a child.

Mabel sees Alaska as a way to escape from all of the pity she sees in the eyes of family and friends. She just wants life to be her and Jack. Jack knows they can't make it in such a harsh land alone. He is too old to be breaking the land. He needs help. Mabel feels at fault for her inability to give him children but Jack does not blame her...

Just at the right time a boisterous family comes into their life to help them manage their homestead. A family with three strong children. A woman who starts to bring Mabel out of her shell. Also at this time their appears a mystical child. A child that appears the day after Jack and Mabel make a small snowgirl. Is she real or is she a manifestation of all of Mabel's hopes and dreams?

I cannot tell you the joy I found in this book. Despite the overall sadness of the main theme there was much to celebrate within. Faina, the snow child was a delight! In writing her dialog no quotation marks are used so you "hear" it in your head and wonder if she is real or not. She came to me as a whisper on a breeze. I felt as if I had been dropped into a snowglobe and was living in some kind of mystical snow world. The writing almost surrounded me and then fell like the little pieces of snow. This book is special; I cursed my reading schedule because I could not immediately start it over again. I know that I will find more when I do get the opportunity to drop again into Faina's magical world.

It's by no means all magic and light. There is much depth to be found in the tale. Sadness and loss. The bonds of friendship and the power of love and what those two can do to keep a person from completely falling apart. I am not usually one for books with messages but this book stole my heart. It's a keeper and now sits on my top reads shelf. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think. I love a book that makes me do all of that and more.
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128 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives Transformed by Magical Child, January 27, 2012
This review is from: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
Does anyone really belong to you? If you think of children or spouses in this regard, The Snow Child will stop you cold.

In the 1920's Mabel and Jack settle along the Wolverine River in Alaska. They hope the challenge of homesteading in the wild will wipe away years of grief and give them a fresh start. Instead, they find that work and isolation rule. The hardship of everyday life cuts away at their spirits. Cash is scarce. Hope dimmed. As the cold bites, each tries to survive in their own way.

After a fresh snowfall, they build a snow child in a moment of much-needed frivolity. When they awaken the next morning the snow child is demolished and the hand-knit mittens and scarf they draped on it are gone.

Jack sees a small girl running in the snow. When Mabel glimpses the blond girl, it unifies them. Jack hunts for a moose to keep them from starving in the winter. When he is ready to give up, the magical little girl appears and leads him to a moose. Food for winter is secured.

The little snow girl, Faina has frosty lashes, a cool blue stare, and is always accompanied by a red wolf. She seems otherworldly and Mabel and Jack find her appearances and disappearances disconcerting. They continue to try to maintain contact with her, but she remains elusive. Faina dictates the terms upon which the relationship grows. She brings to them physical gifts, but most importantly she offers hope and love.

The writing in this enchanting book is beautiful. Its direct simplicity reflects the austerity of the Alaskan atmosphere. The wilderness itself is an important character. Jack reflects on the land flowing with milk and honey that was to give up moose, caribou and bears. "What a different truth he found. Alaska gave up nothing easily. It was lean and wild and indifferent to a man's struggle."

Only someone intimately acquainted with Alaska could write so eloquently about its beauty and barrenness. This unique story masterfully juxtaposes the isolation and stillness of the land with its snow-covered beauty and the joys found in the simple life. Ms. Ivey aptly captures the contrast of the mystique versus the reality of homesteading in 1920s Alaska.

Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and lives there with her husband and children. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University and studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program. She worked as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper for nearly 10 years. The Snow Child is her debut novel.

You will want to purchase this fanciful, entrancing book for your best friend. Lose yourself in The Snow Child to find healing, mystery and magic. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
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145 of 163 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A letdown, March 4, 2012
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First, I will agree with others in that this was a book I could not put down, I stayed up a good portion of the night to finish it. The fantastical elements are, for the most part, believable and beautiful--many things in life straddle the line between reality and magical. However, I totally agree with the reviewer who wrote: "Although the novel starts out strong,... the mystical elements of the story just didn't hold up over its entire course."

The book was divided into three parts, in addition to the chapters. The first and second parts were enjoyable reads, but the last third of the story, and its ending, seemed contrived and I was very disappointed. Somewhere near the middle of the book, the ending became, to a great extent, predictable. Even so, the events of the final chapters of the book seemed almost forced and the ending ridiculous when matched with way the story--up until that point--was able to draw you in and convince you that a very real child could exhibit some of the magical characteristics she seemed to possess.

I did enjoy most of the book, and I did feel that, for the most part, it was well written--hence the three stars. This, however, did not warrant five stars, nor even four. The last third of the book did not remain true to the first two thirds, and it has left an unpleasant aftertaste.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, February 2, 2012
This review is from: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
The 411 by Maria:

From the first few pages, I was completely drawn into this beautifully written story. The writing is beautifully detailed and captivating forcing the reader to literally "SEE" the story. There aren't many books for me that do that and when I find one, I am extremely happy. The kind of books that make you want to read the words out loud because it isn't enough to just see it. I want to hear it too.

I believe it is the quaint, quiet of the story that I loved so much. Eowyn paints a picture of a lonely husband and wife (Jack and Mabel) who move to Alaska after losing their child at birth. They hope to start a new life in the quiet plains of a frigid, sprawling homestead. Like most husbands and wives they are each dealing with their own loss and pain but not turning to each other for comfort. The loss of the baby is like a white

elephant in the room. Each sidestepping and avoiding but wishing the other understood them.

To help with the finances Mabel bakes pie for a hotel restaurant in town once a week and looks forward to baking. It gives her pride to help her husband but when the restaurant doesn't need her anymore, Jack considers joining the mine crew. He meets George, a farmer who offers to visit with his family (wife, Evelyn and boys) to help Jack get the fields plowed for seeding.

Evelyn is a complete contrast to stiff and rigid Mabel. She is loud, cusses, shoots a gun and helps the boys as needed. I enjoyed the conversations with these two very different woman.

Rejuvenated by their new friends, Mabel and Jack smile more and one snowy evening, they create a snowman. When they are done, they realize it is very small, "only up to Jack's waistband." They decide to make it a little girl complete with a snow skirt and they give her berry stained lips after Jack carves out a delicate face. They dress it with mittens and a scarf and head indoors, lying together after making love, they fall asleep.

The next morning the snowchild is gone but they occasionally see a flash of color running through the trees. Tracks of a child and a fox are spotted. Jack and Mabel eventually convince the child to come indoors and thus begins a quiet, relationship between the child and the adults. An understanding of their precious time together. She disappears when Spring comes and gets overheated when she isn't outside. She grows up in front of their eyes eventually falling in love with one of Evelyn and George's boys named Garrett.

Without giving too much away, this is an interesting book that will have you scratching your head and wondering if magic and love is what brought her to life! "That night the child was born to them of ice and snow and longing."

My favorite quotes:

"What happened in that cold dark, when frost formed a halo in the child's straw hair and snowflake turned to flesh and bone? The exact science of one molecule transformed into another Mablre could not explain, but then again, she couldn't explain how a fetus formed in the womb, how cells became a beating heart and hoping soul."

"She had watched other woman with infants and eventually understood what she craved: the boundless permission - no, the absolute necessity - to hold and kiss and stroke this tiny person. Cradling a swaddled infant in their arms, mothers would distractedly touch their lips to their babies' foreheads. Passing their toddlers, mothers would tousle their hair or even sweep them up in their arms and kiss them hard along their chins and necks until the children squealed with glee. Where else in life, Mabel wondered, could a woman love so openly and with such abandon?"

This is truly a beautiful book written with imagination and the obvious love of a mother.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprised at my own rating, May 28, 2012
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Honestly the original ratings for this book, especially on Amazon, were so great that I couldn't imagine NOT being in love with the novel. When I started reading it I felt like maybe it was a book that I was too young to enjoy it (I'm in my early 20's) because it seemed aimed at an older crowd. Nonetheless, I continued reading and really started to enjoy it. The magical aspects were enchanting and almost believable, the characters were fragile but lovable, the storyline was engaging. I want to say when the book started to fall apart from me but I like keeping my reviews spoiler-free, I'll just leave it at it was when Garrett's family discovered they were wrong. From that point the book seemed in a hurry to end and lost all of it's gentle magic. Faina transformed from an ethereal snow fairy to a character that was almost unlikable by the end of the book. If I were rating the beginning of the novel I'd give it a solid 4 stars but because the ending was so unsatisfactory I have to rate the book 3 stars.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, January 31, 2012
This review is from: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
I read this book completely unfamiliar with the Alaskan wilderness in which Ivey's characters are immersed, and I found the bleak and stunning landscape almost as compelling as the story itself. Mabel's loneliness early on is palpable, and reflects the setting she has found herself in. But at the same time the scenery - and the book - is beautiful in an ethereal way.

The story is a wonderful mix of reality and fairy tale, beautifully written with fantastically crafted characters. Against the wild and fasincating backdrop of Alaska in the 1920s, this book is a truly enjoyable read.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Mix of Magic and Reality, March 13, 2012
This review is from: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
Facing the unimaginable grief that comes with the loss of a newborn child, married couple Jack and Mabel have moved to the rugged wilderness of 1920's Alaska. Upon their arrival, they realize that despite their best efforts to escape, grief has followed them to their new home, bringing even more troubles bare. Not the strong young man he once was, Jack struggles to keep up with the heavy labor of maintaining a farm. Left to the solitude of the cabin and a husband who can barely look her in the eye, Mabel has nothing to do but wallow in her loneliness.

But there is hope. Jack, who has to take several trips into town, befriends a local man who invites him and Mabel to have dinner with his wife and sons. Although Mabel would rather stay in the quiet of their cabin, she agrees to go to the dinner. After that evening, the couple leaves the neighbors place with their spirits slightly lifted. Upon their arrival home, a frivolous snowball fight ensues, culminating with the construction of a small snow child.

In the night, Jack awakes, startled to see that the snow child is gone. He sees small footprints leaving the site where the child stood, and as he looks out into the woods, he glimpses a young, fair-haired girl running through the trees. The next day, Jack attempts to keep what he saw to himself, but soon, Mabel notices the tracks as well. When she too sees the girl running amongst the trees, the couple is truly puzzled. Is this child the answer to their prayers, or simply the "cabin fever" effect of their grief?

This debut novel by author Eowyn Ivey is a modern day fairy tale filled with a powerful emotional presence. Ivey's simple portrayal of this grief stricken couple leaps off of the pages and stays with you for a long time. I really enjoyed the way that the setting/tone seemed to reflect the main character's emotions. The opening, when the couple is overcome with the grief of their lost child, is written in a way that I could almost feel the coolness of the landscape. This tale of love, loss, and moving forward combines the fantastic with the harsh realities of the world, providing an extremely satisfying read.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I realise I am outnumbered, but I thought this was really disappointing !, April 17, 2012
By 
Mof (Chichester UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Magic Until it was Cliche, December 31, 2012
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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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The Snow Child: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists)
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