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 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

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

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

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