by Eowyn Ivey
Suprised at how much I liked this novel, which is kind of like a modern fairy tale, haunting and grittily real at the same time. Tender and harsh, it is the story of an older couple who make a new start homesteading in Alaska. They have long been childless, and one day playfully make a small figure out of snow. The next morning the snow has been scattered, the scarf and mitten they\’d placed on it missing, and a single set of footsteps leading away. Then a thin, strange girl starts to show up near their cabin- flighty and shy yet fierce and wild. She apparently lives alone in the woods. Concerned for her well-being, the couple tries to draw her into their lives, while their friendly neighbors are frankly skeptical of her existence, wondering if the middle-aged wife has symptoms of cabin fever. Years pass with the girl coming and going when the first snow falls, disappearing all summer. Until finally one day the neighbors\’ son, a young man who\’s been helping out at the homestead, spies her in the forest and realizes there is some truth to the crazy tales. The story isn\’t just about this wild mystery child, it\’s also about their struggle to live in the remote wilderness, the toll it takes on the couple\’s relationship, and what turns to bring them together again. How they come to depend on the neighbors, and help each other out when times are hard. How the wild animals circle in the dark trees, admired for their beauty or hunted for their pelts and meat, but always with their own secret lives just offstage. It\’s an intriguing story that I enjoyed very much, in spite of some frustration that there\’s no clear answer at the end, with a broad streak of sadness through it all.
Rating: 4/5 391 pages, 2012