This week’s Richard and Judy Book Club choice is a fairytale-like odyssey that details how a couple’s grief led them to make a fresh start in a brutal Alaska…
Jack and Mabel have staked everything on making a fresh start for themselves in Alaska in 1920. Desperate for a baby, and struggling to survive, the couple build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone but they glimpse a young, blond-haired girl running through the trees. Who is she and where did she come from? Jack and Mabel come to love the girl as their own daughter but they soon learn things are rarely as they appear and that the child will transform all of them.
JUDY SAYS: ‘A bewitching and magical story, inspired by an ancient Russian fairy tale, Eowyn Ivey relates the sadness of Jack and Mabel. They had just one child who died as a baby many years before, and Mabel never conceived again.She cannot bear her increasing sadness as all her sisters and friends have children and, eventually, Mabel and Jack take advantage of a US government initiative to enable farmers to settle in Alaska. By this time the couple are well into middle age. They know they will never have the child they long for. In a rare tender moment, Mabel and Jack make a snowgirl in their yard and, when it disappears and a little girls runs around their homestead, Mabel believes their little snowgirl come to life and is her beloved daughter.
RICHARD SAYS: ‘Part fairy tale, part travel odyssey. The descriptions of Alaska’s beauty and almost impossible hardships are stunning. I can barely imagine what it must have been like to relocate from a comfortable urban existence on America’s east coast to an untamed wilderness. As a man, Jack is much more down to earth than Mabel. When the mysterious snowchild enters their lives, he refuses to believe that she is a sprite fashioned from snow and come to life to be their daughter. Nevertheless, he falls in love with the young girl, and for the first time his heart swells with paternal pride and love. There is heartbreak in this story, but ultimately joy as well.’
OUR READER SAYS: ‘I enjoyed the book from the beginning. Jack and Mabel seemed to be punishing themselves by moving from a safe environment to wild Alaska, hoping that the move would help them recover from the loss of their stillborn child. Mabel’s suicidal feelings came through strongly but her character developed and strengthened throughout the story, particularly after Jack’s accident. The fairy tale aspect of the book was fascinating – is it make believe or is it real? I don’t think it matters. The end was what I expected, but out of sorrow came joy. I enjoyed the story and found it an easy pleasant read.’
Cilla Stubbs, 65, Pembrokeshire
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If you like this, try these…
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (£7.99, Macmillan)
A heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (£7.99, Random)
A beautiful love story with a magical twist – you will fall in love with this story.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (£7.99, Macmillan)
A haunting and heartbreaking novel, narrated by Susie – a murdered child determined to watch over her grieving family and friends.