The Snow Child’s world is one of magic and majesty; the remote winter scene of Alaska serves as a fitting backdrop to a tale of wonder. But The Snow Child’s crowning moments are not defined by the vastness of the world. Instead, the brilliance of the novel is marked by scenes of vacant interactions between a husband and wife, something colder and more haunting than the glossy landscapes of ice and snow. Although at times weighed down by tedious exposition and over-explanation, The Snow Child is a love letter to the beauty of small talk (or lack of it), towing the line between fable & naturalism ever so gracefully.
The novel starts out with a barren scene: it’s the 1920s, and middle-aged couple Mabel and Jack have fled their suburban life to homestead in Alaska territory. Mabel envisioned a life of beautiful minimalism for them, but two years later, the couple are struggling to make ends meet. Mabel is but a specter of herself, and the bleakness reminds both Mabel and Jack of their stillborn child that was once their last chance for happiness. Fearful of guns, Mabel goes into the lake to drown herself, but the ice thwarts that plan. What follows are several haunting pages of a couple fading in on themselves, with the distance between the two just as palpable as frost.
Yet, one day, out of mere snow and ice, Faina appears like a phantom at their doorstep. The pale eight year old girl is the remedy to Mabel & Jack’s loneliness, but highlights the differences between the two. The clashes between the two (often based on food supply, Jack’s tendency to stay out too long in the cold, and Faina’s ability to survive on her own) are a stark contrast to the emptiness their relationship once held, but complement it perfectly.
The Snow Child is, on surface level, a mythology-based book laden with beautiful scenes of landscape and magic; at its core, however, is a ghostly tale that leaves readers aching.
Written by Madeline Tredway