One cold, fierce Alaskan winter’s night in the 1920s, frontier settlers Jack and Mabel build a snowman to distract them from the bleakness. When they wake up, the snowman has gone but a wild, slight sprite of a girl appears into their lives from the woods. They come to love her as the child they never had, amongst the freezing wilderness.
Based on the Russian fairytale of the snow maiden who disappears each spring only to return with first snowfall, Ivey’s tale suspends you between truths. Is the girl really a magical apparition? Or a flesh and blood girl? The balancing act between magical realism and historical fiction is clever.
I loved the descriptions of the Alaskan mountains, streams and woods. The routine and seasonality of a pioneers life are interesting and deeply felt. But the story itself was fairly transient and insubstantial; a clever retelling of a tale but it left me cold. There was little emotional heft to match the gorgeous imagery.
So a thing of beauty, but nothing to thaw my heart and make me love it.
Read: When your central heating is broken.