Summary and book reviews of Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho

A Novel

by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
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  • Published:
    Jan 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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Book Summary

From O. Henry Prize–winning author Emily Ruskovich comes a stunning debut novel about love and forgiveness, about the violence of memory and the equal violence of its loss.

Ann and Wade have carved out a life for themselves from a rugged terrain in northern Idaho, where they are bound together by more than love. With her husband's memory fading, Ann attempts to piece together the truth of what happened to Wade's first wife, Jenny, and to their daughters. In a story written in exquisite prose and told from multiple perspectives—including Ann, Wade, and Jenny, now in prison—we gradually learn of the mysterious and shocking act that fractured Wade and Jenny's lives, of the love and compassion that brought Ann and Wade together, and of the memories that reverberate through the lives of every character in Idaho.

In a wild emotional and physical landscape, Wade's past becomes the center of Ann's imagination, as Ann becomes determined to understand the family she never knew—and to take responsibility for them, reassembling their lives, and her own.

2004

They never drove the truck, except once or twice a year to get firewood. It was parked just up the hill in front of the woodshed, where it collected rain in the deep dents on the hood and mosquito larvae in the rainwater. That was the way it was when Wade was married to Jenny, and that's the way it is now that he is married to Ann.

Ann goes up there sometimes to sit in the truck. She waits until Wade is busy, so that he won't notice that she's gone. Today, she comes here under the pretense of getting firewood, dragging a blue sled over the mud and grass and patches of snow. The woodshed isn't far from the house, but it's hidden from view by a stand of ponderosa pines. She feels like she is trespassing, like none of this is hers to see.

The truck is parked on a rare space of flat land, an unlikely shelf carved into the mountainside. In front of the woodshed, around the truck, a few loose bricks lie here and there in the grass and snow. Spindles of mangled...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Though at the novel's center is an act of shocking violence, this is also a story about many different kinds of love. What are these various forms of love? What role does love play in this novel, and how does love contribute to the feelings you are left with in the end?
  2. When Wade's memory begins to fail, Ann endures humiliation and physical pain because of his actions, which, to someone outside of the relationship, would look like domestic abuse. Discuss the ways in which she copes with these episodes. How does Ann interpret these acts of violence, and what does that say about her as a character? Did you feel nervous and uncomfortable about the fine line she is walking between her love and her safety?
  3. What are other examples of...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed to find the second half didn't live up to my admittedly high expectations. The strength of the writing is diluted among all the characters, and the emotional arc meanders at a major plot point in Ann's search. Ultimately, the redemptive bow that ties up the end is rushed and emotionally incomplete, even if it feels right. I can't help but admit how sad I was that it wasn't the novel I wanted it to be. But I'll forever be grateful for the gift of the parts that glittered and shimmered throughout, evidence of what language can be in the hands of a truly gifted writer.   (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review

With an act of unspeakable violence at its heart, Idaho…is about not only loss, grief and redemption, but also, most interestingly, the brutal disruptions of memory…Ruskovich's language is itself a consolation, as she subtly posits the troubling thought that only decency can save us.

The Wall Street Journal

Sensuous, exquisitely crafted.

Marie Claire

Mesmerizing . . . [an] eerie story about what the heart is capable of fathoming and what the hand is capable of executing.

The Huffington Post

Ruskovich’s debut is haunting, a portrait of an unusual family and a state that becomes a foreboding figure in her vivid depiction.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

Idaho is a wonderful debut. Ruskovich knows how to build a page-turner from the opening paragraph.

San Francisco Chronicle

The first thing you should know about Idaho, the shatteringly original debut by O. Henry Prize winner Emily Ruskovich, is that it upturns everything you think you know about story. . . . You could read Idaho just for the sheer beauty of the prose, the expert way Ruskovich makes everything strange and yet absolutely familiar.

Library Journal

First-time novelist Ruskovich has written a family tragedy that will be appreciated by aficionados of literary fiction rendered poetically. However, many will find the unrelenting misery and melancholy just too depressing.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Shocking and heartbreaking, Ruskovich has crafted a remarkable love story and a narrative that will stay with readers.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A provocative first novel filled to the brim with dazzling language, mystery, and a profound belief in the human capacity to love and seek forgiveness

Author Blurb Andrea Barrett
Idaho is both a place and an emotional dimension. Haunted, haunting, Ruskovich's novel winds through time, braiding events and their consequences in the most unexpected and moving ways

Author Blurb Andrea Barrett
Idaho is both a place and an emotional dimension. Haunted, haunting, Ruskovich's novel winds through time, braiding events and their consequences in the most unexpected and moving ways

Author Blurb Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
Idaho begins with a rusted truck and ends up places you couldn't imagine. Its language is an enchantment, its vision brutal and sublime. This book is interested in what can't be repaired and every kind of grace we find in the face of that futility. It caught and held me absolutely.

Author Blurb Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
Emily Ruskovich's Idaho is a novel written like music. Striking arpeggios, haunting refrains, and then you come to a bridge, and Ruskovich leads you up into the mountains, introducing a chorus of rich and beautiful voices woven deep in the Idaho woods, each trying to come to their own understanding of a terrible tragedy ... Ruskovich digs deeply into everyday moments, and shows that it is there, in our quietest thoughts and experiences, where we find and create our true selves.

Author Blurb Chinelo Okparanta, author of Under the Udala Trees
Emily Ruskovich has written a poem in prose, a beautiful and intricate homage to place, and a celebration of the defeats and triumphs of love. Beautifully crafted, emotionally evocative, and psychologically astute, Idaho is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Author Blurb Deirdre McNamer, author of Red Rover
Emily Ruskovich has intricately entwined a terrifying human story with an austere and impervious setting. The result—something bigger than either—is beautiful, brutal, and incandescent.

Reader Reviews

dpfaef

Idaho
When you read a book about murder especially a horrific murder you expect a resolution, an explanation, something to ease the pain. In Idaho Emily Ruskovich gives you none of that. Ann knows when she married Wade that he has early on-set dementia ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Idaho—A Nonsense Name?

Shoshone Falls in Idaho In Idaho, Ann muses about a legend surrounding the state's name. She relates a delightful story about a delegate to Congress playing with a little girl named Ida lingering in the House chamber while others discussed proposed names for a new western territory. When the little girl runs away, the man shouts after her, "Ida! Ho! Come back to me." When the Congressmen heard him shout they thought he was suggesting a name. Thinking on his feet, the delegate made up a story about hearing Shoshoni chant the word "idaho" at dawn, and that it meant "gem of the mountains." Congress votes, the name wins by a landslide, and the new territory is slated to be named "Idaho," with Denver as its capital. The lie is soon discovered, and the embarrassed ...

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