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Idaho: A Novel by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho: A Novel (edition 2017)

by Emily Ruskovich (Author)

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1331090,390 (3.77)6
Title:Idaho: A Novel
Authors:Emily Ruskovich (Author)
Info:Random House (2017), Edition: Second Printing, 320 pages
Collections:To read

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Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

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Beautifully written. ( )
  DougJ110 | Apr 27, 2017 |
"In Emily Ruskovich's wizardly vision, Idaho is both a place and an emotional dimension. Haunted, haunting, her novel winds through time, braiding events and their consequences in the most unexpected and moving ways." -Andrea Barrett
If my Goodreads friends reviews were not enough, this comment by Andrea Barrett--whose books I enjoy--was the clincher, motivating my interest in reading it. When I finished Idaho I learned that Ruskovich had studied writing with two of my favorite writers, Marilynne Robinson and Ethan Canin.

The novel is a complicated, slow moving, intense story, delving into characters linked by love and horrific tragedy. The writing is gorgeous with no stock cliches. This is not a fast plot-driven read. It is not a happy story full of joy. It is about how people carry on living in the midst of pain.

Young marrieds Wade and Jenny had left the prairie to live on a mountain in Idaho, discovering later how isolated they were. They build a home from scratch, saved up for a plow so they could keep open the road going down the mountain in winter. They have two daughters and are happy.

Then Jenny killed their daughter May, for no apparent reason, in a thoughtless act. Wade hid their other daughter June in the forest to keep her safe, but when he returned for her she was gone, never to be found. Jenny is convicted to life in prison; she would have preferred death but remarked she should never again receive anything she wanted.

Early onset Alzheimer's disease runs in Wade's family; it caused his father's death when he wandered out and became lost in the snow. That does not stop school teacher Ann from falling in love with Wade and offering herself to be his caretaker. Wade has moments of clarity without memory, wanders off as his father did, and at times becomes dangerously violent. Wade has lost his daughters and memory of that loss, but the heartbreak of loss remains.

Ann once observed May giving a knife, made by Wade, to an older boy. She becomes obsessed with Wade's daughters and wife, the mystery of June's disappearance. The girls haunt the mountain and their home. Ann is also painfully aware of Jenny in prison.

Jenny's early self-destructive desire resolved into accepting her punishment as just. She finds the pain of scrubbing floors a soothing mortification. Without contact from the world, isolated within the prison of her own making, Jenny seeks nothing more from life. Until she decides to help her cellmate who has been banned from education classes; Jenny attends the classes, takes notes, and gives them to Elizabeth. Their friendship grows.

The story's ending is astonishing and moving and we discover Ann's power of love is truly redemptive.

Ruskovich joins the league of impressive first time published authors in 2016.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review ( )
  nancyadair | Apr 19, 2017 |
A really interesting, dark, and off-the-grid (multiple narrators and non-contiguous time frames) look at loss and the part memory plays in that. At the story's base there's a murder—a matricide—but it isn't there to be solved, although one of the protagonists invests much energy in getting at its emotional core. Rather, there are a lot of twinnings that are pulled apart and the wound examined—sisters growing apart, parents and lost (both figuratively and literally) children, marriages, unconventional friendships, even an amputated leg wracked with phantom and emotional pain. Ruskovich stays on the side of the implicit, rather than spelling out her connections, and this makes for a tension that carries the book through what might otherwise be a distracting series of time and POV jumps. It's a dark story—not sure why it's been marketed as a thriller or mystery, since it's neither—filled with some lovely writing about the natural world and the small internal shifts its characters make. Maybe a bit heavy on the latter, but mostly the book is satisfying. Very different from much of what I've read this year. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Apr 12, 2017 |
I received a galley copy of Idaho from NetGalley and the publisher.

There was much to like about this book, but also tremendous frustration with it. First, I looked at the chapter titles, which log the years, going from 2004 to 2008 to 1985-1986, 1999, 1973, and at the end 2025, and I could not bring myself to even begin reading it, since I definitely do not enjoy timelines that jump around like this. But when I finally did start it, I was sort of mesmerized by the exquisite writing and drawn into the mystery of a mother who inexplicably murders her daughter on a family outing, causing the other daughter to run away and go missing for all time. So two mysteries actually exist. Two mysteries to solve...or not.
Then just as I was drawn in, I was turned off by more perspectives and timelines being introduced, and more questions than answers. The last several chapters were interminable. I guess if read for a book club, there could be lengthy discussions, analyzing, delving deeply, and sheer guesswork to be had. Instead, I sit here very frustrated and not pleased one bit with the ending. 2.5 stars. ( )
  kdabra4 | Mar 12, 2017 |
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich is a 2017 by Chatto & Windus publication.

This book was pushed heavily by some book clubs and by readers on various book sites. I put it on hold at the library, but the wait time was very long. When a copy finally became available, I had forgotten what the book was about and what type of book it was supposed to be. This might have worked in my favor this time around as I had no preconceived expectations.

While it has been listed as a psychological mystery or a novel of suspense, I have mixed feelings about that. To me this book is more literary fiction, which centers around a crime. Yes, there is a mystery, but it’s not what we usually think when that word is applied to a novel.

Obviously, Idaho is the setting for this complex story about love, marriage, illness, family, and forgiveness. But, the violence that brings these events into focus is murky, sad, and mysterious. Questions abound, with few concrete answers, which is frustrating beyond reason, but, there are enough explanations to see how things must have transpired.

Wade and Ann married after a terrible tragedy, and Wade is already exhibiting signs of dementia. Ann loves Wade so much, but she is haunted by the memories he is fast losing sight of and attempts to piece together the reasons why his family was torn to pieces.

Told from various perspectives, the story slowly unwinds in a kind of lackadaisical way, which sharply contrasts with the shocking events the story is built on. The characters seem like they are in a dreamlike state at times as memory plays tricks, by opening the door, then firmly slamming it shut before anyone can get a full understanding of the events that transpire prior to Ann and Wade’s marriage.

I kept hoping for some kind of illuminating breakthrough, a big reveal, or uncovered evidence, but it was not to be. I did get the general implications and thought the ending was emotional, yet fitting.

While some threads are left hanging, which is always a bit disappointing, I was okay with it simply because I felt it was more realistic, but I do hope a day will come when the author might decide to add an additional epilogue or create a sequel to address some of the perplexing questions that were never resolved.

I believe this is a debut novel, and as such, it is most impressive. The writing was astounding and is what swept me up into this atmospheric drama with such ease, and kept me captivated and slightly on edge all the way to the end.

I can’t put my finger on what it was about his story that so captured my imagination, but it held me spellbound and it would not relinquish its hold on me easily.

Again, don’t pick this up expecting the usual mystery or psychological thriller. Technically, this is a crime novel and there is a tense, suspenseful tone, but the mystery is not one that has a definitive or pat answer, but is one where the reader much draw their own conclusions, by reading between the lines.

If you start this book without those preset notions and allow yourself to be led along willingly, you will see so many angles and nuances, amid the deep emotional depths of the characters. If nothing else the writing, which knocked me over, is worth every bit of the time you spend reading this book.

I will be looking out for this author in the future!!

4 stars ( )
  gpangel | Mar 6, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812994043, Hardcover)

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.
Advance praise for Idaho
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.”—Andrea Barrett
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.”—Leslie Jamison
“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. This book is full of extraordinary women and men overcoming extraordinary loss through love and forgiveness. 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.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
“It’s been six years since I first read Emily Ruskovich’s breathtaking prose, felt the force of her unsparing imagination, and knew I was in the presence of a singular talent. I’ve been waiting for the novel she would write ever since.”—Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
“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.”—Chinelo Okparanta, author of Under the Udala Trees
“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.”—Deirdre McNamer, author of Red Rover

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 23 Nov 2016 13:51:45 -0500)

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