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THE SNOW CHILD

Creating Personal Miracles
By Neely Kennedy

In the Ladies' Home Journal December book club pick, The Snow Child, The New York Times best-selling author, Eowyn Ivey, spins a modern day fairytale about a couple trying to build a new life in the harsh wilderness of Alaska. After fleeing comfortable circumstances in order to escape the grief of losing their child, Mabel and Jack’s story begins with the darkness of their first year in Alaska. Both are deeply depressed, adjusting to their persistently poor and rural circumstances, and suffering from personal isolation and loneliness. One snowy evening, they finally find each other during a moment of compassion and intimacy that reveals their unspoken hope in a miracle that will save them. As Jack in his desperation considers going to work in the coal mines as a last resort to survive, they are shocked to discover they have indeed manifested a “snow child” built in a moment of playful imagination; a little girl who has come alive to help them to overcome their nearly impossible circumstances.

At the heart of this book dwells the couple’s deepest wish to have a child to love, and ultimately their ability to suspend their need for explanations, and believe in the impossible; that they can manifest their dream in a “child” made from snow. Three parts of the story, outlined below, show how the couple created their personal miracle.

Building a Life in Alaska—Mabel and Jack discover that the Alaskan frontier that they thought would offer an adventure to distract them from their loss, in reality, offers a bleak and hard life that requires strength of character they will have to cultivate to survive.

“Alaska gave up nothing easily. It was lean and wild and indifferent to a man’s struggle, and he had seen it in the eyes of that red fox.”

“It would be a hard life, but it would be theirs alone. Here at the world’s edge, far from everything familiar and safe, they would build a new home in the wilderness and do it as partners.”

“For a moment its eyes locked with Jack’s, and there in its narrowing golden irises, he saw the savagery of the place. Like he was staring wilderness itself straight in the eye.”

“As Jack knelt in the bloody snow, he wondered if that was how a man held up his end of the bargain, by learning and taking into his heart the strange wilderness—guarded and naked, violent and meek, tremulous in its greatness.

“Faina” a Fairytale Daughter—Faina is a symbolic personification of the couples shared hope to find joy inside the remote, unforgiving, and seemingly hopeless wild Alaskan frontier.

“She and Jack had formed her of snow and birch boughs and frosty wild grass.”

“The girl’s hair was white-blond, but when Mabel studied it she saw that woven and twisted among the strands were gray-green lichens, wild yellow grasses, and curled bits of birch bark. It was strange and lovely, like a wild bird’s nest.”

“You did not have to understand miracles to believe in them, and in fact Mabel had come to suspect the opposite. To believe perhaps you had to cease looking for explanations and instead hold on the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers.”

A Grandchild Offers Hope for Tomorrow—Although Jack and Mabel are heart-broken when they learn Faina is not able to live inside and away from the wilderness where she was created, the grandson born to the magical Faina and real boy, Garrett, offers hope for a lasting family for Jack and Mabel.

“Are you well child? Oh, yes. Out here, with the trees and the snow, I can breathe again.”

“How easily she talked with the boy. Some days she would tell Jay about his mother, how he had her blue eyes and how she had come from the mountains and snow and knew the animals and plants as if they were her own hands.”

“In my old age, I see that life is often more fantastic and terrible than stories we believe as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.”

Book Club Bonus: Ask each member of your group to contribute a personal anecdote where they chose to invent themselves anew in their life—where they chose happiness in hard times. This is much easier said than done. What degree of success was each member able to achieve in choosing happiness, and what realities were they not able to overcome.

“She had thought often of Ada’s words about inventing new endings to stories and choosing joy over sorrow. In recent years she had decided her sister had been in part wrong. Suffering and death and loss were inescapable. And yet, what Ada had written about joy was entirely true. When she stands before you with her long hair, naked limbs and her mysterious smile, you must embrace her while you can.”

 

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