The Snow Child – Setting and More Part Two (Spoiler Alert)

DaffodilsHappy Spring. We’re finally encountering weather appropriate to the middle of April.

Sooo….Back to my trip to Western Pennsylvania.

This was a brutal winter here on Long Island – the cold, the snow!  I was prepared to snow-fallingencounter much of the same, and maybe a bit worse, when I visited the family.  One night we got to talking about the weather and commiserating about “cabin fever.”  Silly me I told them my tale of woe and they retorted with days of 30 degree below wind chill temps.  Need I say I couldn’t compete?

Eowyn Ivey has not only written about Alaska she’s living the lifestyle in small town Alaska.  As you read the novel did you contemplate how isolating the weather can be? Why do you think that the author timed the arrival of Faina during the first snow? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?  Was the setting vital to the tale?

I’ve had a few readers mention that they found it unbelievable that Faina could possibly have survived on her own especially given the cruel winters. Were you able to suspend disbelief in that regard?  Could a young child survive on her wits and the little bit of knowledge gleaned from an alcoholic father to survive in the wilds of Alaska?

The Snow Child – Discussion Questions – Setting Part One (Spoiler Alert)

Western PennsylvaniaI took a vacation to Western Pennsylvania last week to visit relatives.  It’s not quite the cross-country trip that I would have had to make to visit Alaska but it did get me thinking about The Snow Child.  The hills and people of Western Pennsylvania are very different in so many ways that my flat landed, overpopulated Nassau County.

As I drove along I 80 headed West and watching for my exit I thought about how far away from family that Mabel and Jack had actually traveled.  A trip to see family that I put off because of distance, 362 + miles that took me over six hours by car means that I just can’t manage to see them as often as I would like.  I couldn’t help but ponder moving away from family knowing that I would in all likelihood never see them again and yet Jack and Mabel did just that.  Would you be able to pull up your roots and leave everyone in your life knowing that you might never see them again?  Why do you think Jack and Mabel made this decision?  Did you get a sense from any of the characters that they regretted leaving kit and kin?

Given their ages (around 50 at the beginning of the novel) do you think that either gave much thought to the possibility of being abandoned and alone in this desolate area should one of them die?  Do you think that Mabel would have been able to carry on in the wilds of Alaska?  What do you think she would have done had this occurred?  Was Jack better suited to the wilderness?  Would he have remained or do you think he might have been tempted back to Pennsylvania?

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey Discussion Questions (Spoiler Alert)

snow childWe’ve entered the magical world of 1920’s Alaska and have met Mable and Jack.

Were you shocked to learn that it was Mable that suggested that they move to Alaska?

Why do you think that, having lived so long as a childless couple, they decided at nearly 50 years old to leave the comfort of home and family?

On page 5 we begin to see the desperation that Mabel feels

” There were guns in the house, and she had thought of them before…She had never fired them, but that wasn’t what kept her.  It was the violence and unseemly gore of such an act, and the blame that would inevitably come in its wake.  People would say she was weak in mind or spirit, or Jack was a poor husband. And what of Jack?  What shame and anger would he harbor?”

She decides to commit suicide by river, how does she justify this?  How would her death have been easier for Jack?

As she travels across the icy river why do you think that she changed her mind?  Did she change her mind?

There is a chill between Mable and Jack yet on the night of the first snowfall they play like children.  It’s not until this night that Faina appears.  What is the significance of her appearance at this point?

More to follow.

Eowyn Ivey

snow childI hope that you have gotten your copy of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – either by picking up one at the circulation desk or downloaded as a e-book or audio book.

Eowyn Ivey isn’t just an author she also works in an independent bookstore in Palmer Alaska, Fireside Books.  Now normally I would hide the URL and just hyperlink the title of the bookstore but I just can’t this time it’s so cool.  Here goes –

I’m sharing a video of Eowyn mostly to allow you to meet her, but also because so many people have wondered how to pronounce Eowyn! So now you know also. In the video she invites us into the background of how she came upon the idea to write the novel, and tells us a bit of what it’s like to live in Alaska.

I do hope that you’re enjoying The Snow Child.  I’m re-reading it for the second time and love it just as much as I did the first time.

Let me know how you’re doing and stop back for the beginning of the discussion.

Oh and how glorious is it that we’re finally out from under our mounds of snow!!!!!!!!! Come on Spring.

Our Next Selection

We’re moving on from Lean In I do hope that you have gotten some things to ponder.  I do know that I have.

I thought I would move from the non-fiction set in the very real corporate world to fiction based upon a Russian folk tale set in 1920’s Alaska.

snow childOur March discussion title is

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

“Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.(from the book jacket)”

Pick up your copy at the circulation desk and stop back with your thoughts.

Lean In – Nearly the End

Women-Friends-Laughing[1]I was glad that Sandberg spent some time on the inequality/equality topic.  Not that long ago, as a new manager,  I straddled the likability fence.  I wanted everyone to like me, but found that it was hindering my ability to do my job.  When I found out that, because I was actually supervising, some of my employees didn’t like me.  That hurt, but I had to get over it.  Would those who were upset by me have reacted differently if I was a man? Were my expectations different because I supervise mostly women?

Is there a gender gap?  Does Sandbergs’ advice help you as you make your way up the jungle gym?

Sandberg finishes the book with the idea of working together toward equality. She suggests that the struggle between stay at home moms and working outside of the home moms needs to end.

“None of this is attainable unless we pursue these goals together.  Men need to support women and, I wish it went without saying, women need to support women too…As obvious as this sounds, women have not always worked together in the past.  In fact, there are many discouraging examples where women have actually done the opposite. (p.160.)

How can we work to encourage this cooperation?  What are the barriers?

womenSandberg mentions that everyone likes a fight, but catfights are even more fascinating. For so long we women have been battling the “mommy wars” – moms who work outside of the home vs. those who stay at home and work.  In the end both sides feel judged by the other and guilty.  On page 168 she states, “We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us.  so let’s start by validating one another. Mothers who work outside the home should regard mothers who work inside the home as real workers.  and mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option.”

Do you believe that this is possible? Is it possible to project a united force?

I leave you with her thoughts.

“Equal opportunity is not equal unless everyone receives the encouragement that makes seizing those opportunities possible. (p. 160.)

Lean In – Mentorship

mentoringSandberg makes an amusing/insightful comment on page 71 about mentorship –

“For years, I kept an eye on an enormously talented young woman on my team at Google and adviser her each time she had a major decision to make.  I never used the word “mentor,” but i invested a lot of time in her development.  so I was surprised one day when she stated flatly that she had “never had a mentor or anyone really looking out for her.  I asked what a mentor meant to her.  she explained that it would be someone she spoke to for at least an hour every week. I smiled, thinking, That’s not a mentor-that’s a therapist.”

It might seem obvious, but what effect do you think this had on their relationship going forward?

Proponents of the advancement of women in the workforce have advocated for mentorship for a very long time.  What are the benefits of formal vs. informal mentoring?

On page 72 there is a discussion regarding the difficulty regarding the potential minefield of thedanger senior male/junior female mentoring relationship.  Because so many senior positions are held by men it is important that women striving to succeed have the ability to reach out to seasoned professionals for advice.  How do you think this can be successfully navigated?  What are the responsibilities of the participants in these relationships? What can we do to change the perception/misconception of these relationships?

The Jungle Gym

jungle gymSo much of what we have been taught regarding getting ahead in the business world deals with “moving up the ladder.”  I found Sandberg’s example of the jungle gym so relevant to my “progress” in my chosen field.  Rather than the dream of moving constantly upward the idea of moving side to side, and up and down in order to get where you want to go is freeing.  What do you think?  How have you moved up?  If you’re stuck where you are and don’t see a way to move up after reading this chapter have you pondered how the jungle gym approach may be more helpful?

I have a friend (lets see if this resonates with you) who isn’t sure where she wants to end up.  She’s pretty sure that, while she’s finally gotten where she wanted to be in her company, it’s not where she wants to stay.  Disappointed that her dream job just isn’t that she’s feeling stuck.  I’ve discussed with her what she’d really love to do, and encouraged her to dream big.

I love the paragraph on page 55,

” A long-term dream does not have to be realistic or even specific.  It may reflect the desire to work in a particular field or to travel throughout the world.  Maybe the dream is to have professional autonomy or a certain amount of free time.  Maybe it’s to create something lasting or win a coveted prize.”dream

If you could dream big what would you dream?

I’ve recently taken a job that required a cut in pay, but would eventually give me more free time and the ability to enact positive chages.  It’s more work than my last job and more fulfilling – I’m NEVER bored and really trust my supervisor.  For me that’s a win-win.  What would you give up to move to where you want to be?

I think at this point we need to revisit the “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Can you truly dream big when you’re constrained with just trying to get by?  My decision was a tough one because it required some major belt-tightening and has left me worried from time to time about paying the bills.  But it was worth it! .

What would you love to do?  Share it with us!