From O. Henry Prizewinning 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 perspectivesincluding Ann, Wade, and Jenny, now in prisonwe 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 knewand to take responsibility for them, reassembling their lives, and her own.
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...
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).
Full Review (832 words).
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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