My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Positives about the book first: Some of the imagery in describing the Alaskan wilderness was very nice. I find myself drawn to stories where the setting plays a big role in the characters’ lives. And I’m glad there was a not some tacked-on, not-really-fitting-with-the-rest-of-the-story, happy ending. The melancholy mood the book ended with was pretty consistent with the mood throughout the story.
But other than that, I wasn’t really grabbed by this book. After a few chapters, the landscape descriptions became a bit repetitive and lost their luster. It would also have been nice to know more of the main characters’ lives before making the move to their homestead in Alaska. The loss of the baby was given as the main reason for their making such a huge leap, but that was a bit thin for me as a premise. I felt there needed to be more flashbacks to how they came to the decision to make the move and what incentives made them choose such a formidable undertaking. Because Alaska was a very necessary element in the plot, I wanted to find out more about why they went there and not somewhere else – California, the Great Plains, or another almost equally large leap from their home in Pennsylvania.
The story also wasn’t original, as it was based on a children’s folklore tale. I don’t feel enough was done with the story to give it its own character and set it apart from its source. And though the back cover provided hints that the book would be “bewitching,” “captivating,” and “spellbinding,” I found it dragged in places and was a bit too predictable.
There was also a lack of nuance to the characters. Once they were introduced and we learned what they looked like and what their main drivers were, they came across as a bit one-dimensional. To be sure, they were consistent in their words and actions, which is a good thing. Too often I read stories where the characters suddenly come out with behaviors that seem so contradictory to what the author had been trying to create for them, that it’s too jarring and I can’t remain invested in the book. For example, the character of Esther was probably introduced as a light-hearted foil to the otherwise gloomy atmosphere, but her blustery, no-nonsense, unflappable presence became kind of cartoonish.
So, if stories with a hint of a magical element are your thing, this may be a good read for you. It’s a nice story that can be put down and picked back up without losing the thread. But I think it was just that characteristic that left me a little flat.