The Snow Child

The Snow Child

by Eowyn Ivey
The Snow Child

The Snow Child

by Eowyn Ivey


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In this magical debut, a couple's lives are changed forever by the arrival of a little girl, wild and secretive, on their snowy doorstep.

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart — he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone — but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316175661
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 11/06/2012
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 21,054
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. This is her first novel.


Five Questions for Eowyn Ivey, Author of The Snow Child
How did you discover the fairy tale that inspired The Snow Child?
I work as a bookseller in Alaska, and one night I was shelving books when I came across a children's illustrated version of the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka. It caught my eye in part because it was illustrated by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. As I read through it quickly there in the store, it was like a revelation - a fairy tale set in a snowy landscape that could be my own backyard! Over the next months, I became obsessed with Snegurochka. I abandoned another novel I had been working on. I began uncovering the many versions of the snow maiden that have been told over hundreds of years and portrayed in Russian lacquer paintings, children's books, even an opera and ballet. I knew this was a story I was meant to tell.
How much did your own life in Alaska influence your writing of the novel?
In many ways, we share some day-to-day similarities with the main characters. My husband, two daughters, and I live in a relatively rural area of Alaska, we raise a vegetable garden and chickens, we hunt moose and caribou for meat, and we gather wild berries. All this saved me a lot of research as I wrote The Snow Child - I know what it's like to live through a dark Alaska winter, to eat moose and potatoes for dinner, to make wild berry jam. The difference is that if we fail at these endeavors, we have other options. We have credit cards and grocery stores, careers, and the assistance of family. As I wrote The Snow Child, I had to imagine what it would be like to be in the Alaska wilderness with no safety nets, to be entirely dependent on the land itself.
Did you know when you began writing The Snow Child how it would end?
It seems strange, but no. In fact, during much of the time I was writing it, I wanted it to end in an entirely different way. I kept considering the different versions of the fairy tale, with their different outcomes, just as Mabel does in the story. I assumed that as the creator of the novel, I would be able to choose what happened. But instead the characters and the themes set the story on a trajectory of its own. As far as the writing process, the last chapters came very quickly. I knew they were right. But, at the same time, I found it emotionally challenging.
Are you working on another novel? What is it about?
I have started my next novel. Like The Snow Child it will be set in historical Alaska with some fantastical elements. But this story will be more epic in scope and more adventurous. I was awarded a grant to research the novel, so my husband and I spent a week floating a rugged section of the Copper River here in Alaska. It was an amazing experience - we had seals swimming up to our raft, glaciers calving around us, and brown bears watching us from shore. So far, writing the next novel has been a lot of fun!
How important have books been in your life?
If I was forced to choose only one form of entertainment for the rest of my life, it would be books - over movies or TV, music or art or theater, all of which I enjoy also. For as long as I can remember, the written word has been a part of my consciousness. My mom, Julie LeMay, is a poet who read to me constantly when I was a little girl. As I got older, I read books to escape to other worlds, to explore and be entertained. Both my parents are avid readers, and my husband used to joke that our house was like a library - books everywhere and everyone reading. As I've gotten older, I realize that books also have the ability to shape our understanding of the world. They inform us and touch us and make us who we are. I think that is what led me to become a bookseller and eventually to write a novel - a desire to contribute in some small way to the world of literature.
Who have you discovered lately?
As a part of a book club, I just read The Housekeeper and the Professor, a novel by Japanese author Yoko Ogawa. It is a deceptively slim (only 190 pages) and quiet book, but one of my favorite recent reads. It's about things I don't usually find interesting - baseball, math - but the way Ogawa writes about these aspects of the story, and her portrayals of her characters, is so tender and moving. Any book that makes me think of mathematics as beautiful and magical has got to be special!
I also just finished The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall. It hasn't been released yet, but my UK publisher sent me an early reading copy. The novel is about a young girl growing up in England and spending her summers in Hungary. Hall places you so firmly in each of these places, it's like going on a travel adventure. But my favorite part of the novel is the twist in the plot - positively stunning!

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