Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

It was a quieter book club night, 10 members attended but others were sharing their thoughts about the book via email!  If someone saw those few emails that were circulated before book club they would have a pretty good idea, so far, of what other members were going to say about this book.  One member wrote "Loved this book....another great read / learning experience of Alaskan frontier in 1920s. Beautifully written mystery in nature that will stay with me a long time..especially during snowfalls."  Those emails of "liked the book", "LOVED the book" were good indicators of how well received this book was!

When we start our book club, we share our name and if we liked the book or not.  I enjoy sharing this part with you as I enjoy each and every persons own opinion as to whether they liked it or not!  Here are a few of their comments:  "really enjoyed it; kept me wondering to the very end" and "I really enjoyed the book.  I traveled to Alaska for three summers and could imagine the outposts that they were at."  One member said she enjoyed her writing, but the scene felt dreary, adding that the Bensons brought a lot to the story.  Another said she enjoyed the mystery part of the story, seemed like she was real but then there were times when it was a figment of imagination.

One member said she really liked the connection to the Snow Child story, it was a fairy tale to the story.  She related to different things in the story.  Loved Esther and Mabel and what they had to go through to survive.  What would have happened if Jack was hurt?  Loved every page, she said.

To be nominated to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is quite an honor and in 2013 Snow Child was one of three nominated in the fiction category.  In 2012 Good Reads nominated it in the category of Historical Fiction and was voted one of the top 20 and votes place  Snow Child in 4th place.  The question came up with the discussion, is it historical fiction, a folk tale or does it have some characteristics of fairy tale?

The person who selected this book for discussion said she really enjoyed the great depth and imagination that came with this book.   There were many themes of love through it, marital, parental, friendship and love of nature.  Someone else said:  "Loved when Esther came to visit, bringing her jars, you never leave empty handed, either.  That was so much of Esther's love."  We discussed the difference and change that came with the relationship with Mabel and Esther.  Esther in the overalls, the way she took over the turkey meal, killing the bird, bringing it in the house to clean, feathers flying all over.  Someone said, that many times, opposite attract!  Mabel was very careful, very clean and precise.

We talked about Mabel and Jack's move to the frontier, how they weren't connecting, her suicide attempt and then the change came, along with the snow and the Snow Child.  We talked about how they changed when the child came, later how Mabel changed when Jack got hurt.  She felt she had a purpose now, she loved to help with the garden, to feel the soil on her hands, the connection with nature, how she loved the otter.  One member shared that the description seemed pretty bleak at first and then there was the yellow flower, the colors that the  the Snow Child had.

We talked also about the mystical, the legend, the fairy tale, the folk tale or was it real?  The night they "made" the Snow Child, with it's distinct features that Jack helped to make, they had so much fun together.  Did they really make a child?  Faina showed Jack her father and grieved him.  Had said her mother died in a hospital.  Was that mystical?  Faina showed that she could bring snow around them and cold, she had powers.  Mabel was worried that she might melt, that there was something special and magical.

Although we liked the part of Garrett, we also acknowledged that Garrett's love of Faina also brought about her death.    We liked how the author brought in the swan feathers, a reminder of the first time Garrett saw Faina, added to the wedding dress.  It was also the first time Garrett saw the true Faina wilderness, her ability to be strong, killing it with her bare hands.  We talked about how Faina was like perma frost, can't get too warm, can't be cooped up, and needs her space.  She knows how to survive, going with the caribou high in the mountain in the summer to survive the different seasons.

We talked how Faina would bring things to Jack and Mabel, she loved them.  She brought Jack to the moose, a kill bigger than even Garrett, the big hunter had ever seen.  This way Jack wouldn't have to work in the mines and leave Mabel.  She loved them and they loved her.  What was Faina?  A real child?  A mystical being?  In the epilogue in the book, we are given a glimpse of Faina, a picture of her as a baby being held by her mother.  We have a clue that there was something human about her, too.  When she died, though, she left no body, her clothes and shoes were left behind, she was gone and was never found.  She did leave her child behind, loved by Mabel, Jack and Garrett.