[2015] Emily Hess: The Snow Child

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[2015] Emily Hess: The Snow Child

The Snow Child

The book is set on a homestead in 1920's Wolverine River, Alaska. The setting also moves to the woods around the homestead, town, and Faina's little home in the mountains. Two main characters, Jack and Mabel, live in a cabin near the Wolverine River, about a wagon ride away from the town of Alpine. The story takes place beginning the second winter the elderly couple spend in Alaska. It's the time of year when the leaves have all fallen, but there isn't any snow. The book really registers the despair that the landscape gives during this time of year. For example, when Mabel is doing dishes, the author writes, "November was here, and it frightened [Mabel] because she knew what it brought - cold upon the valley like a coming death, glacial wind through the cracks between the cabin logs. But most of all, darkness. Darkness so complete even the pale-lit hours would be choked," (Ivey 4). An important location in the novel, the woods around the homestead are illustrated as uncharted. When Jack is riding to town, the author writes, "...[Jack] rode hunched and cold as the wagon bumped along through miles of untouched forest," (14). The woods are a key location because they are where Jack and Mabel spend a good deal of time searching for their "snow girl". Jack's thoughts depict the town of Alpine as, "nothing more than a few dusty,false-fronted buildings perched between the train tracks and the Wolverine River," (14-15). Town is an escape from the harsh wilderness, if only for the amount of time it takes to eat a piece of pie and drink a cup of coffee at the diner. It poses a small amount of Alaskan civilization in the vast emptiness of the "Last Frontier". The mountain house of Faina is described in the quote,"The effect was that the small cabin looked like a grassy knoll, just another part of the mountainside," (164). Faina's house is important to the development of the story because when it is found, Jack and Mabel realize that Faina is a real flesh and blood human being, not a mystical snow pixie.

By: Eowyn Ivey



To describe this story in six words, it is: frosty hopes turned to summer dreams. This novel is a very interesting read. Out of five stars, I would give it four. The author's style of writing leans toward character self reflection, and the majority of the novel, the characters are alone with their thoughts. It was sometimes difficult to differentiate between the thoughts of the characters. The characters themselves were captivating, and the reader is "put under the spell" of the storyline. The plot of the story, as well as the personalities of the characters develop over the span of several years. I enjoyed this novel because of the combination of the writing style and the mysterious fiction aspect. The story is full of twists and turns, and leaves the reader with questions. I would reccommend the story to anyone who enjoys Alaskan novels.


Main Theme

The three main characters of the story are Jack, Mabel, and Faina. Jack is an old man, originally from Pennsylvania. He moved to Alaska with his wife, Mabel, to start over after the death of their only child. Jack is an intelligent and kind man. At first glance, he seems like a rough man, greying around the edges. Age is taking its toll on his walk and work ethic. As the novel progresses, he comes to realize that being old and inferm is a state of mind. Before Jack learns this, the author writes of his thoughts, "The truth squirmed in the pit of his stomach like a thing done wrong. This was way too much work for a man of his age," (Ivey 13). Mabel is Jack's wife. She is quiet, level headed, imaginitive, and the one who convinced Jack that Alaska was the place to go to start over. The one thing Mabel wanted was children, but the only child the couple had was still born. When Faina appears to her, Mabel believes she and Jack created her from snow, because of a story her father read to her many years before. Mabel's hopes and dreams appear to be manifested in this little girl, but nothing is as it seems. Jack clearly illustrates Mabel's character in the quote,"You're different. True to yourself, even if it means people will say you're crazy," (140). Throughout the course of the novel, Mabel learns to accept what life throws at you, and to fight for what is important to you. She learns the merit of hard work, and not to take little things for granted. Faina is a petite girl, with blonde hair, and intense blue eyes. She lives alone in a little cabin in the mountains. Faina was left alone when her father died of frostbite. Her only friend is her red fox that follows her when she is hunting. Jack and Mabel think that she was created from the "snow child" they built together. She seems to have power when it comes to snow. Snowflakes will not melt when they land on her face and blizzards form when she is angry. One passage that describes Faina is, "The child's face was gentle and young, but there was a fierceness as well, in the flash of her blue eyes and the point of her little chin," (99). The book also depicts Faina as wild. It says that she has a look about her, that she can't be tamed, and she smells of the winter wind, animal furs, and wild grasses. In the beginning of the story, she is cautious and fearful of the old couple. Faina learns that it is important to trust people, and that you must accept the consequences of your actions, no matter how costly.

The novel is filled with themes, but the most prevalent is the theme of hope. It is interconnected with winter, snow, and family. Jack and Mabel did not believe they would ever have children. When Faina appeared, she gave them new hope. Usually winter is associated with either despair or wonderment. To the aged couple, every winter brought new joy. They rejoiced when snow came down the mountains, because with the snow came their beloved "snow child". Constanly the author emphasizes that Faina is at home in the winter, and she is never cold. She appears to be in control of the winter storms and flurries. For that reason, Jack and Mabel do not fear for her when she retreats to the mountains for the summer months. Hope also resonates in every thought the couple have towrds the girl. She is a magical gift to them, and represents so much more than the passing of seasons. The quote that best captures this hopeful theme, is a thought process belonging to Mabel, "When Mabel woke in the mornings, happy anticipation washed over her for a moment she knew not its cause... Then she would remember-the child might visit," (Ivey 117). She had a new reason to wake up in the mornings, and it filled her previously dark days with light.

Emily HessPeriod 511/24/15


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