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One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, and sing snatches of songs as they while away the time.

But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction.

In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 3, 2017

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About the author

Emily Ruskovich

3 books545 followers
Emily Ruskovich grew up in the mountains of northern Idaho. She graduated from the University of Montana and received an MA in English from the University of New Brunswick and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was the 2011–2012 James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her fiction has appeared in Zoetrope, One Story, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. She was a 2015 winner of the O. Henry Award for her story “Owl.”

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,537 reviews
Profile Image for Adina ( On hiatus until next week) .
827 reviews3,239 followers
March 15, 2017
I have been sitting in front of the screen for some time, staring hopelessly at the screen, hoping to find some inspiration on what to write in my review. I even find it difficult to decide on the rating for this debut novel. I am so conflicted about my feelings that I cannot even answer to a simple question: Did I like the book?

Maybe this confusion is due to the fact that I was expecting something else. The blurb states that during a family day-out in the woods “something imaginably shocking happens” which will influence the life of the whole family. I do not know why I was expecting some kind of psychological mystery. I read the whole book waiting for some kind of plot twist or at least an explanation for the terrible event that shadows the life of the characters. I do not need books to have a resolve but the structure and the atmosphere gave the impression there will be one.

The book is written from different POV’s with each chapter hopping around to a different time period. It is hard to summarize the story but I will try to say a few words. Ann moves back to Idaho from England and she meets Wade when he takes piano lessons from her. Wade has dementia and is hoping that the lessons will help him with his memory loss. Ann and Wade get married and they try to live a normal life in a remote house in the woods. This proves to be difficult due to Wade’s shocking thing that happened in the past and changes everything. Slowly, with each chapter, we learn more about the event, Ann and Wade’s relationship, and his former family. We also get a glimpse in the life of other minor characters that were somehow touched by the event. .

The novel is beautifully written, you can feel the author’s talent, her ability to create a bleak tension and there were times when I could not let the book from my hands. However, there were times when I wanted to skip passages. I did not understand Ann and her decision to marry Wade when he already showed symptoms of dementia. Her obsession with his past and his previous family (“I am here because you are not here.”) was very disturbing and a bit odd.

Although I appreciated the beautiful writing the oddness of the book left me a bit dissatisfied. I am sure many will love this novel and it will probably win awards but for me it was not as wonderful as I expected.

Many thanks to Emily Ruskovich, Random House UK/Vintage, and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews34.1k followers
October 24, 2019
$1.99 Kindle! If you’ve hesitated about this book - curious— $1.99 is less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
I think it’s worth reading! Soooo glad I didn’t miss it!

Oh my gosh... I don't think I've been this excited about a new author --LIKE THIS--
--- since 2014--- when I first read Robin Black's novel "Life Drawing".

Emily Ruskovich's debut novel "Idaho" has knocked me over!!! ( I almost skipped this one too - which would have been a huge mistake).
The writing is beautiful and brilliant. Details come slowly...yet I was hanging onto every word - every emotion and thought which came with those words. Reading became an exquisite experience. When a FICTION BOOK is THIS GOOD.... it's transformative.... I JUST CANT SAY ENOUGH WONDERFUL THINGS ABOUT "Idaho".
Other than, "Boy, I'd love to meet the author"!!!

So..YOU want details... for a review?... ok ... spoil my my 'aura-of-bliss'. Time to think of something to write here.
Most important --- if you are my friend--I'd simply say READ IT! Nuff Said! --( we can talk about it together after you've read it) It's soooooo WONDERFUL!!!!

But for those readers who need 'more' details.....here goes: NO SPOILERS... just a few tasters ....
Ann was born in Idaho....in a small mining town of Kellogg in the Silver Valley of the Panhandle. She doesn't remember living there because her family moved to England when she was three years old.....( Poole on the South coast). Now...as an adult, she has moved back Idaho. She got a job teaching choir at a small school in Hayden Lake in northern Idaho.
Ann's 28 years old. Her mother had passed away a few years prior, and her father moved to Scotland to live with his brother....after losing his wife.

Right away - early into the story - BEFORE Ann meets Wade....( she becomes his piano teacher).... we learn about a student name Eliot. AND THIS IS WHERE THE AUTHOR HAD ME HOOKED --- you'll be too ---
Then things change again.
So... Ann and Wade become friends - she his teacher. They made small talk before and after his lesson. He told her his father began to loose his memory in his early fifties due to the onset of dementia. It was like that with his father's father, too.

If you read the BLOG... it says "something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction".....you'll meet the characters mentioned in the blog -plus others. Elizabeth too!

So... the last thing I will leave you with is this... Ann and Wade 'do' get married.... but there are things you don't understand about this marriage until you read the book.
There are things ANN doesn't understand herself. There is still a lot you don't know.
As the reader --- we 'begin' to try to make sense of all that we 'don't' understand
together with Ann. We keep thinking about this story - trying to understand - in our own way - long after this novel ends.

I'll leave you with this lovely excerpt:
"It turned out to be a beautiful fall day on Mount Iris. She and Wade went on long walks together through changing woods, chilly in their sweaters, kicking leaves. They put leashes on their goats, and fed them apples that they picked from haggard, wild trees.
The goats chewed with difficulty. Ann watched the green froth fall from the leathery lips".
Ann and Wade were happy.

Tears -real tears were running down my face at the end of this story!

"Idaho" is rich in 'themes' and in 'characters'. There is nothing pretentious ---
Quiet and introspective.....we are fully drawn in. Every word, every nuance, is fastidiously written.

Thank you SO MUCH for the opportunity to read this novel, Random House, NetGalley, and Emily Ruskovich, (I'm a new fan!!!)
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,737 reviews14.1k followers
December 8, 2016
Books are miraculous things. They touch each one of us in individual ways. As soon as I started reading, I was in awe of this authors obvious talent. A first book, seriously? With this beautiful prose, prose that is elegant, haunting and melancholic. Prose that shows us a beautiful landscape in sharp contrast to a shocking event. An event that will leave many reeling, reverberate through the years and touch many, even those not directly involved. it is Wade's story, a husband who loses his wife and two daughters and as a double whammy also deals with early onset Alzheimer. Is it a mercy that he can no longer quite remember the event, but still senses the feeling? Jenny, the mother who commits a terrible act in a single moment, and pays for it dearly. Anne, a younger music teacher who will come to the mountain, fall in love and marry a man with this tragic past, carry his burdens as well as her own.

The themes of memory, forgiveness are strong throughout. The story goes back and forth, past, present and even the future and from person to person, not my favorite way of story telling but it works well here. Like memory the story is almost related in fragments, the reader needs to put them together, find their own way through. This will not appeal to all readers, readers who want a pat ending, need closure, all the answers, will not find them here. Like real life sometimes there are no answers but we must go on regardless. Sometimes the person we most find hard to forgive is ourselves.

A very different read from a most talented writer. One of those stories that must be taken as a whole, where there is as much in what is not said as in what is written. Haunting.

ARC from publisher.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
February 9, 2017
Idaho , Emily Ruskovich's stunningly written debut novel, has an almost dreamy, elegiacal feel to it. It's a book that is about so many different things—the redemptive power of love and friendship, the burdens of loss and secrets, finding the strength to forgive yourself, the fragility of the mind and memory, and how long to maintain hope in the face of great uncertainty. This is a book that is both sad and happy, with characters and situations which will stay in your mind and take up space in your heart.

Years ago, Wade and Jenny married and moved to a small town in Idaho, where they lived on top of a mountain. It was a challenging existence, but one made brighter by their two adolescent daughters, June and May. Yet one seemingly typical day, when the four of them were collecting wood, in a split second everything changed. Their family is torn apart, and Jenny winds up in prison.

Ann, who moved back to Idaho from her home in Europe, is a music teacher in the school June attends. Wade begins taking music lessons from her, and she is touched by his dedication to his studies, even though music doesn't come easy to him at his age. A few months into their lessons, she hears about the tragedy that has befallen his family, and expects never to see him again, yet he returns a few months later. She is moved by his disclosure that he is beginning to suffer from the early onset of dementia, a disease that affected both his father and his grandfather. When they get married, it is both out of love for Wade and for the desire to protect and care for him.

As with any family member living with dementia, life with Wade is full of both beautiful and difficult moments. Ann tries to soothe Wade's panic but at times inadvertently puts herself at risk. In an effort to try and provide stability for her husband, she also tries to understand what happened that afternoon with Wade, Jenny, and their girls, and tries to understand how everything changed so quickly. But the more that she tries to decipher the clues and Wade's sporadic recollections, the more she begins wondering what her role might have been in all that occurred.

Idaho isn't told in a linear way—it moves from past to present and back again, and shifts perspectives between Ann, Wade, and Jenny, as well as a few other peripheral characters. At times you feel you're gaining clarity, but like memories in real life, they shift and change, and you're never entirely sure what recollections are true and which are embellished nuggets of truth. That works for this book but if you're a person who likes to have a full understanding of plot points, you might find it frustrating.

I felt that this book moved really, really slowly, and the narrative shifting of time and perspective confused me a bit. I felt there was one character in particular who made a few brief but key appearances in the book really served to muddy the waters for me a little further. But in the end, why this book works so well is the absolute beauty of Ruskovich's storytelling. Here's just one example:

"She can never look right at his disease. It is always in her periphery, pulling at the corners of her understanding. She has never been able to find the right questions, to pin down his illness in a way she can understand. The same old questions come to the surface once again."

This is a moving, memorable, well-written book, and it marks the debut of an author with incredible promise, someone I'll add to my ever-growing list of authors for whose next work I wait impatiently.

NetGalley and Random House provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,205 followers
November 24, 2016
3.5 stars rounded up.
I found this story to be very unnerving . It's tense and there's some mystery about it, usually not the kind of book I read. Yet there was something so mesmerizing about the story of this family tragedy and something so enticing about the pieces of the story that made me want to keep at it, to be able to grasp what happened and why. Having finished it, I'm not sure I have all the answers but I still think it's worth reading. The writing is stellar.

A tragedy occurs in 1997 to a family of four living on a mountain in Idaho - Wade and Jenny and their daughters June and May . It's also Ann's story who will become Wade's second wife . Oh there is pain and sorrow and grief and loss , loss of a loved one to death , to prison and to where ever they have run to. There is another devastating loss - loss of memory. The narrative unfolds from different perspectives and different times, not in chronological order and I thought this mechanism worked well as parts of the family story unfolds. There are reviews that will give more detail, but I don't think I could give those without giving things away, so those will provide more specifics to those who want more. I can only say that I found this to be a complex, thought provoking read about love, guilt, friendship, kindness and forgiveness, memory and what the loss of it might be like. Emily Ruskovich's debut novel leaves me interested in what she will write next .

I received an advance copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group - Random House through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,268 followers
September 9, 2021

4.5 Stars

“Meaning is like music; it catches and is carried. It returns. Refrains, phrases, the names of passing boats. Stuck in my head, it’s stuck in my head. The way stories fasten themselves to words, words fasten themselves to vulnerable rhythms, impressionable tunes.”

The quiet contemplation of what it means to be human, to love, to need forgiveness, to be worthy of that forgiveness and to give forgiveness, are at the heart of Idaho. While the prose is lovely, the story wanders into violence, a violent act, spared of details, an act that haunts these pages, fills in the quiet interludes and spreads across chapters and time.

Just as in life, there may not be easy answers or solutions. There just is what remains. Of life. Of love. Happiness overshadowed by darkness of the past, but also the darkness and uncertainty of the future. We are all so flawed – how can we expect, or pretend to deserve a perfect life, with perfect happiness, overflowing? How can life be any more giving when it’s already given you life? These are not the people who compare themselves to celebrities and curse their bad luck; they are people who live day-to-day, content with the ability to do just that, and no more. Content to find joy in standing on the top of a mountain, spotting a fawn in a yard or splashing in a river. A simple life. A shattered life, painstakingly pieced back together and held together by love.

The words flow in this novel, as does the music, the description of music, the playing of music, the writing of music. It adds such a lyrical quality to reading this, changing the atmosphere each time it is introduced, infusing it with a lovelier, atmospheric presence so that music feels almost like another character that is ever present, just waiting for someone to remember that it is there. This added so much to the story, for me.

It isn’t often that we read a story and are left with questions about the why’s and how’s and I struggled with this myself. But life doesn’t always give us answers, and sometimes there is no why or how that is truly the answer, let alone an answer that would satisfy us. It just is. Life. Savor it. Perhaps that is the answer.

Published: 03 Jan 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided to: Random House, NetGalley and author Emily Roskovich
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,607 followers
June 28, 2017
This book is a truly beautiful story, with a poignant magnificence that sweeps across the widest spectrum of thoughts and feelings as reminders and remembrances of our humanity.

This book tells the story of Wade and Jenny and Ann; of May and June, of Eliot, of Ivy, of Elizabeth and others. Their stories intersect and interconnect on several levels across decades and, together and apart, they experience tragedies laced with simple sorrows and happiness sprinkled with fluted notes of joy.

The immersion into this book is of the full body and soul variety – the author takes us deeply inside each event and person and setting. Inside accidents, inside murder, inside prison life, inside farm life, inside the wild abandon of two little girls at play, inside the honeycombed mind of dementia, inside a dog’s reason and purpose, and even inside a piano.

The prose is spare and simple and so powerful; then suddenly, like a flock of colorful birds startled out of an array of autumn trees, a cataract of color flows onto the page, catches us in the current and propels us along. Breathless, we are compelled to read on.

You do not have to be a dog lover to appreciate:

“Ann loves Roo. She loves even the tired sadness with which he looks at her because she is not Wade and because she feels it equally toward him. You are not Wade. Theirs is a devotion that is possible only because of their equal disappointments in each other and the knowledge they share that at one time, to the one who mattered, they were each separately enough.”

You do not have to be a musician to enjoy:

“That original song hovers over her, barely upheld. But breaking through these terrible chords, the high intervals of the right hand trip over the rocks in streams, recover themselves, and struggle, running in a breathless scale, up.”

You do not have to be an ex-piano teacher ruminating on the checkered source of a State’s name to feel:

“Meaning is like music; it catches and is carried. It returns. Refrains, phrases, the names of passing boats. Stuck in my head, it’s stuck in my head. The way stories fasten themselves to words, words fasten themselves to vulnerable rhythms, impressionable tunes. Ann is skilled in the archaeology of carried music. It holds on like fear, like love.”

Then: “A pause. A rest. A breath that is the stillness of Ann’s hands on the piano. A half-note eternity.”

This book is beyond impressive; it is consuming, enveloping, and embracing. Its name is Idaho and it belongs on everyone’s Favorites shelf.
Profile Image for Beata.
729 reviews1,115 followers
July 19, 2019
I guess this is one of the most difficult reviews for me to write …. At the beginning I was totally immersed by the tragic event, by the beauty of the place and by the complicated yet compelling relationships portrayed in this novel. The narration, the reminiscences – loved them absolutely. However, somewhere in the middle of the novel I began feeling like I was drifting away from the characters and from the story. And it was not the question that I wanted the answer to WHY such a horrendous act, killing your own child, was committed by a mother, you cannot explain such a deed, and I did not expect to receive the explanation. It is just at a certain point I knew I was not involved in the story as much as I would liked to have been ….
I listened to an audiobook, just like my GR Friend Darlene, and the narration was perfect, nevertheless, it did not enhance my understanding of the novel. It is poetic, it is beautiful, but somehow not a perfect read for me ……
Profile Image for Kelli.
850 reviews395 followers
May 22, 2017
With four and five star reviews pouring in for this, I am immediately reminded of my reaction to My Name Is Lucy Barton. Both books were purposefully constructed and beautifully written, rendering a landslide of emotions while leading the reader to some truly thought-provoking, yet unanswerable questions. I guess I'm learning that I am not a fan of that. While I don't require a tidy ending (I loved Inside the O'Briens, cliffhanger and all) and I am quite capable of drawing my own conclusions, Idaho felt at times gauzy and a bit confusing, not due to the non-linear narration, but because so much was left to interpretation. .

A frustrating experience for me, but truly a beautifully written debut. I can't say I'd recommend this book for the reasons I outlined in my spoiler, but this stunning review of it is everything I had hoped this book would be to me: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... so consider our opposing opinions and let me know what you thought of Idaho. 3 stars
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,642 followers
September 16, 2018
This book took me by surprise! For some reason, I thought that it was going to be about an expedition to see birds. When I picked it up, however, I quickly realized that that’s not at all the case.
“Idaho” is the story of Jenny, her husband, his new wife, the children, as well as other people relevant to her story, and it’s a book that takes you back and forth in time and shifts constantly in perspectives.
Besides from the main plot which was very interesting and compelling, “Idaho” fascinated me with its writing and symbolism. The pacing of the book was excellent because of all the shifts in perspective, and I especially loved how this isn’t a crime novel but a novel exploring the characters and what this horrible event does to them. AND this is actually a debut novel!
I also adored how the book plays with a lot of themes that I’m not going to get into, but themes that touch upon everyday life and situations. In short, this was just a plainly phenomenal read that is now one of my favourite books of this year, and I can’t express how happy I am that this was not about a bird expedition after all (I don’t know where I got that idea from, honestly!) :)
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,338 followers
December 9, 2016
If you're going to read Idaho, be prepared for a slow non linear read. I'm a fast reader, but this one can't be read quickly. The language is rich and important. The perspectives shift and flit, and the story slowly comes together -- mostly -- a bit like a puzzle with a few missing pieces. At the core of Idaho, is an incomprehensible child murder in 1995. The story radiates out from the murder, told from the perspectives of the father, the mother, the child, the father's new wife and an odd assortment of other people who's lives were affected. And the story moves back and forth in time, including events before 1995 and all the way to 2025. An added layer is the dementia that affects the child's father and that affected his father before him. So memory is not always reliable, offering a sludge of impressions and memories that may or may not be true. This isn't a mystery. Early on, the reader gets a sense of what happened, but nothing is ever fully resolved. It's hard to believe that this is Ruskovich's first book. Her writing skills are hugely impressive. Occasionally I grew weary of the narrative's dreamy quality -- but only occasionally. I'll be curious to see what Ruskovich does next. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
617 reviews338 followers
September 17, 2022
It’s not often a book haunts me in my sleep and makes me doubt my ability to write a worthy review. It presently sits on its own special shelf and is not comparable to anything else I’ve read lately.
This stunning debut requires that you read with focus, determination, and thoughtfulness. With shifting perspectives and alternating time periods you will need patience. It makes demands of you and will not offer up all the rewards you seek.

Ann is attempting to unravel the mystery of her husband Wade’s previous family and its nightmare of a past. He is succumbing to early onset dementia and an angry side touched with disturbing violence is surfacing. As she begins to lose her husband, Ann lovingly labors to find the missing links to what happened with his former wife and daughters. I was fascinated working through the inner psyches of the characters, both child and adult. They are complicated, unreliable, and tainted with tragedy and disability as they stumble through life and love toward some sort of closure and redemption. As each section is narrated and clues revealed, a portrait of a fifty year time period slowly comes in and out of focus, some secrets revealed and others kept hidden. Upon finishing it beckons me to read it again. I’m not certain if I trust what I think I might have understood. I was captivated, mesmerized, and bewildered by the exquisite prose. I also felt deprived and lacked a deeper understanding of some things I desperately wanted to know.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,028 reviews58.9k followers
March 7, 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

Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews671 followers
November 24, 2016
Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

There is an underlying tone of melancholy in this finely penned story. Broken souls, a yellow line, memories lost and memories found, only to be lost again. The love of nature and of music. The knowledge of how lives can be torn apart, and put together a different way. Forgiveness for something that cannot be forgiven.

Recommended for those who do not have to have every little raveling gathered up and double-knotted. Some questions will remain. I love it when this is done just so, the author trusting the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. 'Come back to me ....'
Profile Image for Karen.
574 reviews1,116 followers
December 10, 2016
Idaho has some wonderful writing. It was a haunting novel filled with many different plots and time jumping, that somewhat confused me, and the story left me with some unanswered questions.
I really did enjoy the novel though and would encourage people to read it.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the ARC.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
January 21, 2018
I heard an in-depth examination of this book when I recorded with a guest on Episode 086 of the Reading Envy Podcast, and last year I feel like ever blogger, reviewer, and podcaster had glowing things to say about the book. I put it on the "reading envy" list for 2017, aka books I wish I'd read but didn't get to (full list here.) Then it was included in the short list for the Tournament of Books, so that moved it up in priority for my reading. In the discussion thread for the book, I've noticed that many of the comments are negative, so I have followed the conversation with interest.

I think when people don't like the book, it often has to do with what their expectations are. There is a crime described in the earlier sections, but the book does not really explain the crime. People expecting the author to do so end the book frustrated and unsatisfied. Knowing that isn't what the book is, well, that helps. It strikes me as similar to discussion surrounding a different book from a different award list - Reservoir 13, which started with a missing child, also never solved. In that book, the author kept pulling back and showing the town - both its people and natural elements - in their cycles beyond that event. And here too, the author is focusing in on the people directly and tangentially related to the crime, as they live their lives. Because it is not linear and more information is revealed, it does at times feel like there is a revelation coming soon, but it just doesn't end that way.

In Instagram, I had a great conversation with another reader, whose thoughts really put it all in perspective for me. Kristin-Leigh says
"To me, if I had to say, Idaho is really about the question of what makes people themselves as individuals - is it memory, or trauma, or relationships to others, or interests, and what happens to that identity when those elements change?

Is Wade still Wade without his memories? "
... Etc. (You can read her entire review here.)

I think this is one of those rare books to fit into that category I'm discovering really works for me - where the author takes you somewhere you aren't expecting, and keeps you in the world of the book long after you have finished because of that. I think this is one of the better books in the Tournament of Books this year!
Profile Image for Sam.
142 reviews321 followers
March 7, 2017
Emily Ruskovich can turn a phrase and paint a picture and give you slow burning tension and hints of darkness, she's a great new writer and I'll be excited to see more from her down the line. But Idaho, her debut novel, did not work quite as well for me as it did for some of my Goodreads and real life friends, which was a bit disappointing for me as I went in expecting to love it. The way she constructs a sentence and brings a thought or description to the page is first rate, and there's so much about this book I admired in terms of writing craft, but there was also a lot that frustrated me in terms of the multiple narrators and perspectives, the hopping around in time that was highly meaningful for characters losing or lost to time like Wayne (dementia) and Jenny (incarceration) but didn't work for all equally, and the decision to root everything in an unspeakable crime that is still somewhat unresolved in terms of culpability and outcome, but then despite putting together some compelling pieces never fully resolve it. And I'm all for a slow, meditative read where the writing itself takes center stage - some of my most recent favorite reads could be classified that way for sure - but here the pacing is both measured and erratic as we're thrown into new perspectives and timelines, and there's too much left dangling or incomplete or hard to comprehend in the development of the narrative itself. I'm usually a reader where the strength of the writing can pull past some weaknesses of construction or execution, but I ended the read thinking it was beautiful, but feeling a bit let down and not fully connecting to any of the characters or ideas, just the prose itself. Ultimately, I'll be looking forward to the next novel from Emily Ruskovich and see where her talent takes her, and I'd recommend Idaho on the strength of its writing alone to others, but with the caveat that I did find some things problematic and irritating for me with this read. Probably 3.5 stars rounded down to 3 stars, with some lingering regret I didn't like it more.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,492 reviews9 followers
March 8, 2018
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 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.
Profile Image for Marilyn C..
283 reviews
February 7, 2017
4.5 Stars. Emily Ruskovich has written an exceptional debut with Idaho.

A shocking tragedy occurs in a small Idaho town that will have repercussions for decades within a family. Told in various points of view and time periods, this captivating, but sad story, deals with devastating loss, a wife's unbreakable commitment to her ailing husband, sadness and guilt over past deeds, and ultimately the process of moving on.

As you read this book you will be in awe that this is a debut. Ruskovich’s storytelling is rich in detail and mesmerizing at times. Some of the real stand out chapters were not even written with the main characters, but with side characters. In the chapter "1973," written in the mind of a dementia sufferer, the narrative was so compelling and sad you felt like you were inside their confusion. Also, in one of the chapters titled "1995," written from a bloodhound’s perspective while he is searching for a missing person, you feel as though you are there with him on the trail with all the scents and sounds he is picking up.

Do not read this book if you need to have all loose ends tied up, because it just doesn't happen. This book had me rereading chapters and messaging a Goodread friend to see if I had missed something. This is not a book with answers, but one where you will need to draw your own conclusions. Still, this is a definite, worthwhile read.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews393 followers
December 31, 2016
All the stars!

Few writers can entrance so completely -- creating works of art that are on a completely different plane than most others in the category. Emily Ruskovich belongs in this class. Other reviewers have described the prose in this book as "music" or "poetry," and I agree.

"Idaho" is a book that requires slow, deliberate reading (which is fine since you'll want to savor the writing). The plot centers around a family, a horrific crime, a man losing his memory to early-onset Alzheimer's, and a wife trying to help her husband come to peace with the past. However, while the plot is substantive, the book's genius lies with character development and vivid descriptions of place and thought. This is a non-linear book which shouldn't be read for plot alone (if so, the reader might get frustrated -- and will miss the best parts).

Ruskovich has the ability to create for readers a vivid picture with just a few strokes. She introduces side characters and develops them wholly, in just a few pages, which doesn't detract from the main story but makes it that much richer. For me one of the most moving chapters in this whole novel involved a couple who was peripheral to the story as a whole. Channeling Hemmingway and his 6-word stories, Ruskovich crated a vivid portrait of their lives and their marriage in just a couple of pages. I had to set the book down, I was so stunned and moved. (This reminded me in some ways of After the Parade, another book with phenomenal character development).

5 stars

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
778 reviews
September 17, 2019
I read a lot of fiction so you'd imagine I'd be very comfortable with the facts of fiction. You'd imagine I'd be more than willing to suspend disbelief and always eager to get involved in the fictional scenarios of the books I read. My reading history, stretching to thousands of novels, seems to be proof of that. Yes, I love stories, I keep coming back for more and more of them, and I don't feel I'll stop reading stories any time soon.

But here's a story that failed to suspend my disbelief. Sections of it might have succeeded but because they were melded so tightly with other sections, they didn't manage to convince.

I don't give up on any book without asking myself why it hasn't worked for me. The only answer I came up with here is this: too many ingredients. Yes, sometimes even in stories, there can be too much story. Here, the author had ingredients for maybe three neat stories but she threw them in the blender and mixed them into one oversized story. I finished it but was left both satiated and unsatisfied.

Fortunately the next book I read was a really neat story that satisfied me completely. More about that one soon...
Profile Image for Iris P.
171 reviews205 followers
March 17, 2017

★★★ 3 Stars

I received a free advance e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!


Well, as I mentioned in previous comments, this was an extremely frustrating read for me. When giving low ratings I try to be mindful, particularly to debut authors, but I can't bring myself to give Idaho more than 3 stars. Truly the writing is lyrical, I would even say riveting, but the novel's non-linear structure coupled with a painfully slow pace was confusing and disorienting at times. I was hoping the last few chapters would provide some closure and perhaps try answering some of the many opened questions I was left with, but alas that was unfortunately not the case.

Beyond its gorgeous prose, the novel's other redeeming quality is the intriguing and unexpected ways in which these characters come to find and connect with each other. The unraveling mystery behind the relationship between Ann and Jenny was especially fascinating to follow. Similarly, the symbiotic nature of Jenny and Elizabeth's friendship was beautifully drawn, heartbreaking and moving.

So yes, ultimately Idaho came short for me however, I think Emily Ruskovich is an exciting, extremely talented new name in the literary world. It will be interesting to follow her career and see what she decides to write next.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
52 reviews
January 10, 2017
At page 100, I thought this would be a 3-star book. I didn't like the writing (it read too much for me like the author was VERY proud of getting an MFA) but I thought the plot would be interesting. By page 200, I was down to 2-stars. By page 250, I was at 1-star and feeling like the story had completely let me down.

Another reviewer put the issues with this book much better than I ever could. Essentially, for me, they were issues in execution. The structure was clunky and never resolved into something coherent. As this other reviewer said, it was as if Ruskovich couldn't decide what the book was supposed to be about. I thought the beginning read like a thriller but then at some point the book morphed into something more nebulous - a series of meditations on a number of different subjects, but with no center of gravity (leaving me feeling a bit cheated). Without giving anything away, I'll also just say that a major part of the book is the commission of a particular crime, and absolutely nothing that Ruskovich said about the crime rang true to me - I certainly didn't buy why it happened in the first place. All of that combined with my feelings about the writing made this a true 1-star read.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
March 30, 2017
This will come as a shocker, but I absolutely could not get on with this book. Perhaps I am too busy, reading it in splurges, whenever I have time available, or the story does not flow fast enough to keep me committed.

It's a dark, exhausting read. Powerful but stale at the same time.

So rather just leave it and not rate it. Perhaps I will reconsider it again. Right now, after three days of trying, I'm done. I tried - 50% in, I gave up.

Sorry about that. I need to move on.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
489 reviews596 followers
March 12, 2017
It's difficult to write this review without revealing too much. The whole plot hinges on one moment of madness, a senseless deed of unspeakable horror. We spend the rest of the novel trying to piece together the motives behind this brutal act, while observing its gut-wrenching effect on the family involved.

On a sweltering summer day in rural Idaho, Wade Mitchell, his wife Jenny, and their two daughters are out collecting wood. The work is tiring but the timber is valuable, so the parents soldier on while the kids drink lemonade and play beside a bubbling stream. And then in an appalling act of violence, the youngest girl May is killed. In an instant their lives are irreversibly changed. The other child June scampers into the deep forest and is soon declared a missing person. Jenny begins a life sentence in prison. Wade tries his best to move on, marrying Ann, a local music teacher. Just what really happened on that fateful day, and why?

This setup makes Idaho sound like a gripping mystery but that's not what it is at all. It's more of an exploration of memory and an examination of unimaginable grief. The compassionate Ann can't help attempting to unravel the reasons for May's tragic death. She is surrounded by fragments of the Mitchells' former lives: a crayon-coloured antler the girls used as a toy, a book Jenny was teaching herself to draw with, the rusting truck that became the scene of the crime. Wade, who was always reluctant to discuss the shocking events, succumbs to an inherited dementia and Ann fears the truth behind that awful day will never be understood.

The timeline shuffles around in Idaho, covering a period from Wade's teenage years to scenes after his eventual passing. Some chapters focus on a haunted Jenny in jail, overwhelmed by the loss of her beautiful daughter and the disintegration of her family. Others centre on Elizabeth, her hard-boiled cellmate, and the slow burn of their blossoming friendship. One poignant chapter is told from the point of view of an elderly couple who a shell-shocked, blood-soaked Wade reached out to for help on that momentous afternoon.

Great sadness exists in this thoughtful, lyrical novel. It reminded me of the movie Manchester by the Sea in the way it deals with a family struggling to cope with the most devastating of bereavements. It was Jenny's plight that moved me most of all, punishing herself daily in a miserable existence, with nothing left to live for. The story meanders a little too much for my liking - with some judicious editing I believe it could have delivered an even more profound and powerful impact. But at its best, Idaho is a poetic and graceful tale, told with immense empathy and shattering insight.
Profile Image for Karen.
785 reviews84 followers
November 7, 2016
IDAHO by Emily Ruskovich

"The sun is just beginning to rise. All the windows in the other houses are still dark. She feels that she's the only one awake for miles. Then, in the early light, out on the street, she sees the deer, and this time a fawn, too. It follows its mother slowly, tearing dandelions in the sidewalk cracks. Ann thinks of what Wade told her years ago, about fawns being invisible to the noses of predators. She watches the fawn walk, nibbling the grass, and she thinks: It leaves no trail. It is safe from the danger of its history."

This stunning debut novel is a feast to your five senses. There are beautiful lush descriptions of the flora and fauna of the mountains, rivers and weather. The prose reads like poetry. It is a multilayered meditation of love, forgiveness, violence, redemption. The story starts out with Anne giving music lessons to Wade and their early marriage. Wade had been married before, and an unfathomable act of violence shatters his whole family. Ann is trying to understand what and why the incident happened as we readers also want to understand.

How can a novel have an act of such violence and still be beautiful at the same time? It just is. Every sentence reads like poetry. The story moves back and forth in time. Wade has inherited from his father and his grandfather early onset dementia. There are a lot of characters and they are all like able and at the same time flawed. This is a novel to savor every sentence. Music is a main theme as well as the haunting atmospheric beauty. As I am writing this review I still don't have all of the answers. I hope this book gets the recognition it deserves. Perhaps what is so stunning about this book, besides the poetic nuance it is written with is the ambiguity.

I will never forget this book and am grateful to Net Galley, the talented Emily Ruskovich and the publisher for my digital copy for an honest and fair review.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
891 reviews
March 27, 2018
5 shining stars.
A great book to start the year 2017! I thoroughly enjoyed this story about Wade, Jenny and their daughters, June and May, the horrific incident that destroys their family, Jenny and Elizabeth in prison, Ann, Wade's piano teacher and second wife, and Eliot.
This novel is told from several points of view and covers the time period between 1973 and 2025, but not in chronological order. Normally this could be confusing and bothersome, but it works perfectly for this story.
Emily Ruskovich's writing is beautiful and her words paint detailed visuals of each setting, and scene, and enable the reader to feel the happiness, hope, hopelessness, anger, fear, frustration, determination, sadness and love experienced by the characters. The characters are well developed in thoughts, appearances, emotions and could easily be recognized at a house party or picnic.
Wade knows that his father and grandfather both had dementia early in life and that he is apt to suffer the same fate. This leads him to the choir teacher at school, Ann, and the piano lessons.
I highly recommend this novel and strongly suggest that you read it when you are not distracted and when you have time to read it carefully, thoughtfully and slowly.
Thanks to my Goodreads friends whom spoke highly of Idaho and thanks to Emily Ruskovich for writing this thought provoking novel.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for gifting me a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews544 followers
April 3, 2019
If you're late getting to read this luscious thing like I was, do yourself a favor and skip reading the blurb. It rather hints at some sort of thriller or mystery, and while there are two big questions intentionally left for the reader to muse about, the act of violence - committed offstage - is not of the whodunit variety. The characters here are incredibly rendered, even those on the periphery of the story.

What I about swooned over here though wasn't just the people who populated the story. The random events and settings, weird little everyday pieces, were what truly blew me away. There is a charming, tender conversation held by a couple on their honeymoon, but they chat and flirt from upstairs and downstairs, their love communicated through an open laundry chute.

Or imagine being panic stricken over an injury and running to a distant farmhouse for help. There is a cheap, hand lettered sign out front advertising emus and their eggs. Walk inside where the old woman hands you a clump of toilet paper to staunch the bleeding cut on your cheek, and there on some wall shelves are bottles of emu oil ($15.99 per bottle, say the labels) good for the skin. Candles made of their oil are less expensive, and while you - in shock from the pain and the bizarre neighbors you've never met before - try to recoup your senses, the smell of frying eggs wafts out of the kitchen. Emu eggs.

In a parcel of the woods that are part of your mountainous property, a pale blue wing chair rests next to a pink floral lampshade, both molded and mildewed over, but the gold fleur de lis patterns on the chair are still vaguely visible.

A woman, a stranger really, is incarcerated for killing her boyfriend and then in panic, also shooting a witness. She is best friends with her cell mate, and over the years, they play a game where they rebuild and retell their childhoods. They pretend they've been best friends since they were little, but after eight years of sharing her childhood, the woman decides to stab her friend, just to get a new cell mate.

There is a man who owns a bike shop who became famous when he was a senior in high school for his artistry. He had had a cousin go missing and noticed that all of the age progression posters, digitally created, made her look empty. For his senior art project, he painted his cousin on various canvases. In one, she is in a torn t-shirt, smoking a cigarette and laughing on the front stoop of a trailer. In another, she carries a swaddled baby and smiles in a tree dappled park. The various posters and prints are mailed all over the country, giving the gone girl a life... lives... and miraculously, by these living images, she is safely returned home.

I could go on and on with the random snippets of life that are part of this story. The main veins begin with Wade, a married father of two who is starting to worry about the genetic proclivity the men in his family have toward early onset dementia. His father and grandfather suffered and died with it in their 50s. In flashes backward to his teen years, forward to his 50s, back to falling in love with his first wife and her little dog, and occasionally to the day of violence in 1995, we see Wade content, happy, grief stricken, and then with little memory or the ability to even walk. We ultimately walk out to a hopeful ending in 2025 in another outdoor place, full of beauty and emptiness.

The primary characters of the book are the females whose lives tie to Wade - his two wives and his two little daughters. But if he is the hub of the wheel, then beyond these women are other spokes who are beautifully rendered. You'll get choked up over the delivery of piglets inside a rusty shed, angry when the word daughter is used like a soft handled knife.... daaaaauuuugh TER!

This writer is some sort of magical linguist, and I was floored to learn that this was her debut. I would entirely bless this with five stars except that there was some extra lingering that made me want things to move along. There is a miniature section that is narrated by a blood hound, his wrinkles blocking his sight, but his vision filled with scents.

If you ever borrow audios from the library, do yourself a huge favor and pop onto Hoopla right now and download it. Do not expect a thriller, but do expect to be surprised in small ways over and over again. The ending is not tied up with a big bow, but there are snippets of stories that might give you your own theory about what happened then and what is likely happening now. So good, but probably not plainly spoken enough for the commercial fiction crowd.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,766 followers
August 11, 2019
This novel slipped quietly on and off my radar more than two years ago when it debuted. I think I had it on my TBR list and removed it when I couldn't get a copy from the library and Goodreads feedback proved greatly ambivalent.

A few weeks ago, the 2019 Dublin Literary Award was announced and Emily Ruskovich's 2017 novel was the winner. This award made me sit up and take notice because the books are nominated for the Award by invited public libraries throughout the world. I love libraries and hold librarians in the highest esteem. The great percentage of short-list titles that are books I have loved makes this an award I pay attention to. So I thought I'd give Idaho another go.

And I'm so very glad I did (and thank you to my local public library for ordering in a copy at my request).

What begins as a literary thriller transforms into a quiet litany of grief, redemption, and the shifting nature of memory. The brutality of the narrative contrasts with the beauty of the language to create a captivating, unforgettable story.

Ann, a young music teacher, lives in the Idaho wilderness far from town with her husband, Wade, whose brain is rapidly crumbling with early-onset dementia. Ann and Wade married only a few years before, just months after an unspeakable tragedy rent Wade's world to pieces. There is both grace and woe in Wade's fading memories as Ann struggles to reconstruct and understand what happened that late summer day to Wade, his first wife, Jenny, and May and June, their two beloved daughters. One child is dead, one is missing, a mother serves a life sentence in prison, and a father secludes himself in his sorrow, making room only for this quick and poignant love.

But memory is such a fickle thing. Even if Wade weren't losing his, would the truth be any more clear?

Spanning fifty years, Idaho shares its elegiac narrative with multiple points-of-view, including Elizabeth, Jenny's cellmate; Wade and his porous memories of childhood and early years of marriage to Jenny; May, in the days before her death; and finally, Jenny, serving a life sentence for the murder of her daughter. Ann provides the story's core, serving as a gatekeeper of memory and past and Jenny is the white space that looms between the words, waiting to be filled with answers that never come.

Ruskovich writes prose like a poet, with a reverence for language and a deep understanding of the power of the unsaid. She is deeply rooted in place, offering up a landscape richly drawn with detail that covers flora and fauna, in all four seasons. In a novel that is full of traces and remnants, fading tracks, hints and possibilities, the setting grounds the reader in substance and solid earth.

Unsettling and stunning, Idaho deserves to be lauded. It is a wrenching read and provides no answers for the questions it raises, but the novel is also deeply humane and redemptive.
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