The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey—ATLP Book Review


The Stats

  • 423 pages
  • Published in 2012
  • Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction 2012
  • Fantasy, Magical Realism


The Snow Child:

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.


I bought a copy of The Snow Child about a year ago when I was shopping at Barnes and Noble and it’s been sitting on my TBR shelf for wayyy too long. To be honest, I was SO overdue to read this book and I think I kept putting it off because it seemed so large.

Yet, when I actually picked up this book and I started reading it, I literally flew threw it. I think I read the entire book in less than a week.

Overall, there were a few things I really loved. First, Ivey does an incredible job at the depictions of Alaska. I’ve never been to Alaska, but reading The Snow Child, I felt like I was there. In her author’s note, she does say that she inhabits Alaska—and this honestly makes sense to me. Her writing definitely makes you feel as if the environment is it’s own character in this novel, and the homestead becomes a VERY important part of this book and how it changes each character’s development and growth.

I also really loved the fantasy aspect of this book. Ivey never really comes out and says whether The Snow Child (or as we come to know her, Faina) is really real or not—that doesn’t make her any less real to the reader, or to Mabel, or to Jack. She has backstory, but there’s always that lingering moment of the snowman in the beginning of the book. I loved that Ivey wrote the book this way so that there’s always that moment of doubt as to what really happened. I’m definitely impartial to books that have some element of magical realism, but if you love softer fantasy as much as I do, you might really enjoy this aspect.

I also thought that Garrett’s character was really interesting. Garrett grows up during the course of the book. To me, he almost takes on a Jack London quality, appealing to the more “classic Alaskan” story that we hear about men trapping or living out in the wilderness. Then, he turns it all around later in the book, which comes as an interesting character journey of his own that I don’t think the reader expects in the beginning.

Overall, the thing I loved the MOST about this book was the ending. I feel like there are so many books that just don’t give a plotline the ending it deserves. Maybe it’s because it’s what the author’s team feels like will sell better, or maybe it’s just what feels right to those behind the character, but there are so many books that I’ve read that need a strong ending and the last scene is so…. lackluster. The end of this book was anything but. I won’t give any spoilers, but this story ended exactly the way it needed to.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

I rated this book four stars and I feel like that was a pretty accurate rating for most readers, as this book is rated 3.99 on Goodreads out of over 137,000 ratings. This story radiates love, but also grief. The chief complaint among readers online isn’t the stories magical premise or the author’s incredible depictions of the wild, but instead the twist at the end that leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions to the fairytale. While I loved this ending and it contributed to a higher rating for me, so many readers disagreed.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this book. It IS long, but it’s worth the read, especially if you like magical realism and children’s fairytales.

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