I came across this book in a charity shop – the title literally jumped out at me from the shelf and I’m so glad it did. I actually thought initially that it was another book with a similar title that I had heard about on Twitter. I will read that one another time (and look forward to it) but for now it is a happy mix up because this one is on my list of best reads for this year. Jack and Mabel are from fairly privileged backgrounds, Jack’s family have a successful farming business while Mabel’s father was a literature professor. The couple have dreams of a traditional family home bursting to the seams with children and noise. However their dreams are shattered when their first and only child is born sleeping. Mabel’s grief is so devastating that she persuades Jack to move far away from their family and friends to a remote part of Alaska. They discover a hard life there with Jack trying to run a farm single handedly and Mabel insisting on a solitary existence unable to deal with seeing other people and in particular families. Mabel and Jack grow more and more distant until one day they start catching sight of a young girl in the woods who seems to appear from nowhere and looks to be alone without anyone to care for her. They are captivated by the mysterious girl who arrives each year with the snow season and leaves to live alone in the mountains when spring arrives. Over the years both Mabel and Jack are able to build a relationship not just with the her and also with a neighbouring family, Esther, George and their youngest son Garret who becomes as much a part of Jack and Mabel’s family as his own. Ivey’s descriptions of Alaska are stunning and she really brings to life the reality of the hardships suffered in trying to eke out an existence in such a remote and frozen part of the world. She does not shy from the truth with descriptions of how animals are hunted for food and fur but at the same time the descriptions are respectful and compassionate and fuelled literally by survival – for the most part at least!. This is a story of loss, grief and isolation, also of hope, friendship, and belonging. It is also about letting go, embracing the here and now and allowing others to choose their own paths in life, especially the young. The novel is framed by a Russian fairytale about a snow maiden called ‘Snegurochka’ and I still haven’t decided if Ivey’s snow child is real or otherwordly; she is presented as an ethereal presence not just in terms of the imagery employed but in the subtle way in which the dialogue between her and the other characters is presented. There is however a hard edged reality to her as well which creates a tension; on the one hand she is represented as a mystical presence whereas on the other she is clearly of flesh and blood. All in all this is a beautiful story and I’m so glad into wandered into the charity shop last week or I would have missed it. trd

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