If my first novel had been a Pulitzer Prize finalist, I might have been ruined as an author. Instead, Eowyn Ivey follows up on her extravagant novel The Snow Child (2012)with a new work called To the Bright Edge of the World that’s being well received.
What a stunning debut, a beautifully realized re-telling of an old Russian Fairytale updated to 1920 and re-set in Alaska. A young couple moves to this rugged and unforgiving land and has trouble making ends meet on a farming homestead. They see or think they see, a young woman on the edge of the forest. Nobody else in the area has seen such a child, so Mable and Jack are doubted, thought to be having troubles adapting and staying sane through the long lonely winters.
Ivey lives in Alaska and worked for many years as a newspaper reporter there; this gives her the observational skills and knowledge of the territory to give readers realism that works as a solid foundation for a story that just might sound like magical realism at times. Kudos to Ivey for doing more than simply re-telling an old story with new clothes. In spite of the influences, this is a wondrous original work with characters of great depth and a plot that delivers for both readers of realistic tales and magical works.
The ending–which I won’t give away here–works within the context of a fairy tale and a story realistic enough to have been a veteran reporter’s feature story about a couple from back east who probably never guessed that Alaska would demand everything they could give.
Highly recommended for individuals as well as book clubs.