Two Worlds

International book tours and subsistence living the life of this woman wonder

  Eowyn Ivey - Photo by Stephen Nowers

Chickaloon resident Eowyn Ivey’s normally quiet life has become hectic recently as she sandwiches interviews with major news agencies, such as the BBC, between such typical winter battles like failed water pumps and abundantly snowy driveways.

Ivey’s debut novel, “The Snow Child,” was released in the U.S. in February. It’s also been released in Europe and is on Norway’s bestseller list. It is receiving critical acclaim in the U.S.: It is first on the Christian Science Monitor’s list of six books to read in 2012 and Oprah Magazine’s February issue named it among 10 titles to “Pick Up Now.” It has been named to several other watch lists Ivey works as a bookseller at Palmer’s independent bookstore, Fireside Books. She is also a busy mom of two daughters and lives in a rural community north of Palmer with her husband, Sam, a fisheries biologist. Alaska magazine had the opportunity to ask her a few questions before she headed off to the United Kingdom as part of  her book’s February release there.

Alaska magazine: Can you tell us a little about where you live and why?

Ivey: We live off a dirt road and have about 20 acres. Our house was an unfinished recreational cabin when we bought it, and we’ve been finishing and building onto it as we live in it.

We don’t have a well yet, so we haul water, and we heat primarily with a wood stove. We have chickens and a garden, and a fabulous sledding hill. We can go hiking and snowmachining and berry picking out our back door. My husband, Sam, shot an enormous bull moose in our driveway one autumn. It’s really the dream home for the two of us. We wanted to be near Palmer, because we think of it as our community, but we wanted to be out a little bit where we could live the lifestyle we enjoy.

Alaska magazine: The characters

in The Snow Child are homesteading in 1920s Alaska, working to turn forest into field and live on the land. Did you grow up living that way?

Ivey: Yes, I did. When I was a child, our family vacations were going caribou hunting. We always had a vegetable garden and grew our own potatoes.

Now, with our own family, my husband and I continue this kind of lifestyle. We dip-net and jar salmon, rely on caribou and moose for all of our meat for the year, pick wild berries and grow a vegetable garden. But like a lot of Alaskans, we straddle two worlds: we also buy cupcakes and macaroni and cheese at the grocery store. I would love if even more of our day-to-day diet came from our own backyard. There is something incredibly fulfilling about that for me.

Alaska magazine: The 1920s Alaska depicted in your novel is one of hard-working homesteaders who depend on each other. Today, Alaska can be as disconnected as any other state. Do you feel Alaskans have lost that sense of community?

Ivey: I think that’s what drew me and my husband to live how and where we do now. Among my family and friends, I still find this sense of connection. When we’re hunting, our neighbors feed our chickens for us. When they’re gone, we return the favor. Over the years, we’ve helped my father pack out the meat from moose he’s shot, and he’s helped us the same way. We share our meat and chicken eggs with my mom, and she watches our daughters when we’re out fishing. It reminds me of the Alaskan potluck meals I’ve gone to since I was a little girl and still do. Everyone brings what they have to the table—bear hot dogs, fresh salad, salmon, berry pie. It’s an impressive meal because of what everyone contributes. I feel like there’s something really symbolic about that.

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