From reading the blurb of this book, I was intrigued and desperate to read it. The premise of this book is so interesting and makes for a really interesting read, however, it just failed to deliver. Unfortunately, The Snow Child could not keep the momentum the whole way through and came to a lacklustre ending that left me feeling bored and ready to move on.
The Snow Child is set in Alaska in the 1920s, where Mabel and Jack, a childless couple have moved to start a new life on a farm. Both are haunted by a baby that they lost many years before and hope that Alaska will give them the freedom to move on. One night, when the harsh winter is approaching, the pair build a little snow child, which has disappeared in the morning, along with the scarf and mittens they gave it. Out of the snow-filled landscape, a little girl who looks just like their little snow child appears, and the pair begin to think of her as a daughter. She disappears in the summers and returns with the snow, making Mabel believe that the child is a supernatural creature. In reality, the girl, Faina, turns out to be more human that Mabel suspected, although she is still a wild creature, a part of her that she cannot abandon and that she people who come to love her cannot avoid.
I loved the idea behind The Snow Child. For much of the novel, I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding the character of Faina, and whether she is or isn’t a magical snow-creature. What made it even more interesting was that even though it seems like we are given some sort of answer, we are still left questioning whether she is really what Mabel suspects she is. However, I think that by the end of the book, this mystery didn’t feel like it had a purpose or was the consequence of clever writing, but rather a result of loose story-endings and messy conclusions to the story. The story had a span of over ten years, and I feel like we barely got to know the character of Faina at all; instead of Faina’s character making us think of her as a magical creature, every time one of the narrating characters mentioned Faina, it was to talk about how otherworldly she is – there was too much telling us that she has to be magical rather than showing us why the characters think she is, or making us think so for ourselves. Certain aspects of the story, like Mabel’s childhood book about a snow child made it feel like there was no room for imagination in the book, but like Ivey, the author, was trying too hard to force mystery in rather than letting it seep in.
The long time span also brought the story down, in my opinion. It was just too long a time frame, and meant that too much of the story felt skipped. From one chapter to the next, we went from Faina having visited Mabel and Jack two years in a row, and still being something of a stranger, to Faina having visited every winter for almost a decade, and suddenly she was a grown woman. I feel that Faina was not explored enough for her to be such a central character in the novel. For the level of detail we were given into Faina as a person, I did not think that she would be the centre of so many storylines – rather, I thought that the book would focus more on Mabel and Jack’s relationship, and them overcoming their suffering, rather than Faina. Instead of exploring these truly important things, like the central characters of Mabel, Jack, Faina and even Garrett, too much time was spent on characters like Esther and her friendly chats with Mabel. I would have much preferred it if Ivey dedicated more of the time to actually making readers feel invested in the story, and therefore, in the outcome.
Not only was the story brought down by the lack of detail in the characters’ lives and characters, but the ending of the book felt like a predictable ending – and still didn’t deliver even a predictable ending. I could tell from when Faina and Garrett met that there would be a romantic storyline, and I could see the whole story of Faina trying to settle down coming my way as I was reading the book. I knew that the book would go one of two ways – Faina would succeed and settle down with her little family (which would be a soppy ending, at best) or Faina would fail and run away (which would be more interesting, albeit predictable) – unless, that is, she was a supernatural snow creature and melted away in the summer. I would not have minded the predictability of the ending however, if it had been written better, with some more exploration of the emotions of the characters to really bring home what had happened. Not only did I not feel surprised that Faina left/disappeared, but I didn’t feel affected by it at all, and didn’t feel like the characters really seemed affected either. I would have also liked some hint or explanation as to why Faina left, as it felt like the ending had been put in because that’s what should probably happen in such a story, without giving us any space in which to understand and see things from Faina’s point of view, especially as Ivey seemed to show Faina trying to be a good mother. Did Faina choose to leave, did she feel like she had no choice, did she melt?
Overall, The Snow Child has so much potential, I almost wish someone would edit it to make it the book that it should have been. It should have been an amazing book, and could have been with just a little bit more character development and showing things from characters’ perspectives.