Discussion: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Part 2

Alex, Lora and I discuss whether or not Faina is real, and, ultimately, if that matters in light of the lessons learned by the characters in this magical tale set in the wilds of 1920s Alaska.
By Laurie Grassi

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

Alex, Lora and I discuss whether or not Faina is real, and, ultimately, if that matters in light of the lessons learned by the characters in this magical tale set in the wilds of 1920s Alaska.

Alex: Hi ladies.

Lora: Hi!

Laurie: So, Part 2 of Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child. Is it progressing the way you thought it would? Are some of your questions being answered? Or have new ones just been raised?

Alex: Well, not really. I mean, Esther has changed her tune, but I still don't know what's real!

Lora: The book Mabel's sister sent was interesting — but again, more questions! I like that we got to see more of the Alaskan wilderness in this section.

Alex: Me, too. That book was intriguing.

Laurie: I wonder if, as in a fairy tale, we're just supposed to suspend our disbelief regarding what Faina is/isn't. Do we lose that ability as we get older? Do we always have to know the answers to everything, the why of it all?

Alex: It was like every time something very real happened, it was balanced by evidence to suggest it is fantasy. The book was hard not to believe. I am so torn. Esther seems such a good judge of character and so real and raw.

Lora: That's a very interesting idea, Laurie. I like to think that our imaginations remain intact as we grow older, but we certainly become more logical, even if we don't want to.

Laurie: It seems to me Faina is both real and not. And does it matter in the end? (Although, obviously we have more to read!) And Esther has faith in her friend, really, don't you think, even if she doesn’t quite believe?

Alex: I'm really enjoying how the ladies' friendship is developing. And Jack and Mabel both lose themselves in the idea of Faina and find happiness — they’re both happier even when she's not with them. I guess it's good to lose yourself!

Laurie: Yes, and they fit into life in Alaska so much better.

Lora: I was quite proud of Mabel in this section. She's finally settling in and letting go of all those worries of being prim and proper.

Alex: Mabel is finally allowed to get involved with the land, but in her defense she always wanted to help; it was Jack's old-fashioned notion of what a husband's job was that held her back and kept her inside.

Laurie: Yes, she wanted to help all along; it was Jack who wouldn't let her, who didn't think it was right. And maybe seeing Esther at work had a hand in that, too.

Lora: I also think Faina inspired some of that — she lives on her own in the wilderness, so why shouldn't Mabel be able to do the work?

Laurie: Absolutely. I like to think of Faina as not just winter and snow but wilderness come to life.

Alex: And Jack and Mabel surprise themselves because of Faina, once they know how she survives. I love that story of the two of them huddled under the tree together naked — wow.

Yes! That was amazing! And the idea that the wild is a fearsomeness to be embraced.

Alex: They have each other. They forgot that for a while.

Laurie: A great relationship lesson.

Lora: That scene was beautiful. My favourite scene, though, was when Mabel sketched the snowflake as Faina held it.

Alex: That was a beautiful moment — so touching.

Laurie: Yes, and that Faina asked her to do it. And kissed her.

Lora: And the fact that it didn't melt!

Laurie: It was interesting that it was Mabel who had faith that Faina would return. Maybe because she thought she was magic, whereas Jack didn't and so couldn’t have faith.

Alex: It's weird that magic helped them to believe, or helped Mabel especially.

Laurie: I know! Because it goes against all logic, really.

Alex: Seems contradictory...

Laurie: And yet it is. Which is why this book is so magical and fairy tale-like, wouldn't you say? And has lessons in the same way fairy tales do.

Lora: Yes, definitely. Mabel seems to be using that book from her sister as a sort of guide. She's afraid of holding on to Faina too tightly.

Alex: Although, when she feels like Faina is real, she does try to hold on too tightly. It's as if she only understands the magic.

Laurie: And obviously Faina fears being held and kept. But ultimately, Jack and Mabel still let Faina go.

Alex: They had to, I think.

Lora: They knew they had to. Or else she'd take off and never return. Even when she's in the cabin, she seems to stay close to the door and needs to have her coat and mittens within reach.

Alex: And they have to keep her cool. It's a reminder that she's not like them.

Laurie: I agree. And that whole skating scene shows how much they are becoming part of her world, too: for example, Jack's longing to go further. I have a question: did either of you think she might be the grizzly bear Garrett sees playing in the mountains in the summer, sliding on the snow? That she's a changeling of some kind? And that she was the otter (weasel?) as he was fishing? I think she turns into other animals in the summer — what can I say, I’m a child at heart!

Lora: No! But what an interesting thought!!!

Alex: Ooh! She could be! But then there are pictures of her parents in that box and a baby blanket. So real and so mystical!!!!!

Laurie: I think she was all those playful animals they spotted and that were mentioned, even though there are human parents and she takes human form in the winter. It's magic after all, and the snow doesn't melt on her, so why not?

Lora: See, that's what keeps me going back and forth. She holds snow in her hand without it melting, but then she has a real past...

Alex: Anything's possible.

Laurie: That's what I'm going with!

Alex: She seems to show up with blood all over her all the time, too. She obviously doesn't mind killing things. It's like a North American Jungle Book.

Laurie: Yes! That's just what I was going to say! That scene where she comes into the house and has blood all over her, isn't there a bear mentioned just previously? I think she was the bear that killed something, then turned into a human, although she explained it away by saying she was skinning rabbits and she does kill things as a human.

Lora: That's part of what makes me love Faina — she's not just this delicate, fairy-like creature; she can kill and survive on her own.

Laurie: She's kinda freaky.

Alex: She is!!!! Maybe it's linked to a First Nations story.

Laurie: I don’t know. Eowyn hasn't mentioned that anywhere, I don't think. But she did want people to know what life in Alaska is like.

Lora: Well, I think she achieved that!

Alex: It makes me want to visit there!

Lora: We looked up Faina's name and it does mean light.

Laurie: Yes! That scene where it talks about it: the light as it sets, alpenglow.

Alex: A very particular light. And what a beautiful scene that is and what a thing to be named after!

Lora: Do you think Faina's parents gave her that name?

Laurie: Yes. Didn't she say her father said that?

Lora: Right. I wish we knew more about her parents, though I suppose the mystery of it all is part of the magic.

Laurie: It is all very mysterious — as if the wilderness and the winter took her over after they died.

Alex: Maybe that's what Part 3 will be about.

Lora: I just can't wait to finish the next section, though half of me feels like I may just be left with more questions...

Laurie: Well, next week, we’ll chat about the final part of The Snow Child. Will we find out what exactly Faina is? Will the magic last? We shall see!

Alex: It has to be revealed. Either way, what we're figuring out is that it doesn’t matter. Faina's given Jack and Mabel something to believe in; she’s given them hope. And it's made a positive impact on all of their relationships.

Laurie: That's it exactly, I think. And to accept things as they are and not fight against them. Really quite subtle lessons, but there.

Laurie: Well, until next week, ladies!


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