At the beginning of this novel, Jack and Mabel are preparing for their first winter on their new homestead in Alaska in 1920. Still reeling from the loss of their baby, the couple struggles to connect with one another amid the brutal wilderness. On the night of the first snowfall, Jack and Mabel set aside their grief and build a girl made out of snow.
The next morning, their creation is gone, but they spot a young girl running through the trees. The child, who calls herself Faina, hunts with a red fox and survives by herself in the woods. As the novel progresses, the couple comes to see Faina as their own daughter, even though she only stays with them for the winter and disappears into the mountains when the snow begins to melt each spring. Mabel is convinced Faina is not a real girl at all but a character straight out of the books she read as a child.
This novel is based on Russian fairy tales and is filled with magical elements, yet Ivey manages to make the story believable through a command of character and sensory detail. The characters in this novel are vibrant, empathetic, and deeply human. When I read Ivey’s descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness, I can taste snow on my tongue, feel my toes grow numb with cold, smell wood-smoke wafting out of a cozy log cabin. Because of these vivid details, the reader feels as deeply rooted to the landscape as Jack, Mabel, and Faina. This is a great book to read if you want to curl up and lose yourself in another world that feels at once familiar and surreal.
Review by Shannon Bowring, Tech Services Coordinator
Click here to request a copy.