“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.” – Amazon’s summary
I love books that are a twist on a fairytale, fable, or myth of some kind, so I was excited to get into this one! The fairytale twist was intriguing, but the story was also just a beautiful look into the Alaskan wilderness. The descriptions of the land, the snow, the animals inhabiting the endless woodlands – even the farming – it all made me lonesome for something I’ve never experienced. The harshness of nature is a deterrent for only so long because even the storms sound beautiful – with the work and the bounty from that work being even more rewarding afterwards.
It was a treat to not only read about Faina growing and coming into her own, but also Jack and Mabel. Seeing them accomplish what they moved to Alaska to do – move on from a tragedy back home, become independent, build a farm/homestead together, find happiness – was possibly even more rewarding than Faina’s character arc. Of course, they were both beautiful in their own ways. I personally prefer clear endings, and when it comes to Faina there wasn’t a clear explanation of what she was and what became of her. I’m sure some people prefer having certain elements of a story left up to the reader’s interpretation. Really, I do too sometimes; this one just left me wishing for a clear explanation. That is life though, is it not? You don’t always get answers, and that is exactly what Mable struggled to accept throughout the whole novel so I guess it’s only fair to leave us guessing too.
The different relationships in this story were all heart-warming and pleasing to imagine slipping into. This is the only book I’ve read from Eowyn Ivey, but I can tell she knows how to write human connections in a way that they are believable and REAL. You can feel the love in every character. She also obviously knows how to write about nature in a way that makes you visualize, almost transports you there with the characters. I will definitely be looking into her other works!
Overall, a beautiful, magical, heart-warming (and heart-wrenching), enticing story that tells you to enjoy the present while you have it. Enjoy your surroundings and, most importantly, the people around you while they are there. And to not expect simple answers in life. The puzzles can be beautiful and can lead to the purest emotions you’ve ever experienced.