Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding — is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?
I experienced such a range of emotions while reading The Snow Child. It is painfully beautiful, and it focuses on different topics with an almost easy familiarity. This not to say that her handling of themes is superficial; rather, Ivey makes difficult, heavy topics accessible to others. A big aspect of the novel involves parenting, what it means to be a parent, and how one’s life shifts when the choice to be a parent is presented (or not) at different times. As someone who has not been a parent, I was able to connect and understand the characters who grappled with emotions around parenting. Their struggles with (re)defining themselves and (re)defining their lives were central to the novel; it’s a huge undertaking handled well in relatively few pages.
The Snow Child succeeds in offering readers equals doses of happy and sad, bitter and sweet. It is delightful and depressing, and it now occupies a permanent spot on my “must read” recommendations list.