Tournament of Books discussion

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments so let's talk about it....


message 2: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments This was on my top 5 list this year. I found it gorgeous and harrowing.


message 3: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (tnbooklover) | 1 comments Me too. I loved this.


message 4: by Chev (new)

Chev | 4 comments I liked this one but hated that there wasn't an explanation. I also struggled with the beautifully written detail of memories... except they were made up. It was lovely but not my favorite.


message 5: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 362 comments I agree it was beautifully written but the story never added up for me. I didn't understand why May died, why Jenny did it, if she did do it. What happened to June.

Beautiful writing is generally not that important to me, although there are exceptions. There were gaps in the plot that my imagination just could not fill, which made this novel just an OK read for me.


message 6: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 642 comments The suggestion as to why she did it was because May was singing the song that Ann taught Wade and she felt that Wade was falling in love with Ann....I find that incomprehensible although my mother did throw her shoe at my father once for singing a song about another woman. But murder? Maybe the stress of life in the remote wilderness. Like the fate of June, we will never know.


message 7: by Ruthiella (last edited Jan 04, 2018 02:42PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 362 comments Janet wrote: "The suggestion as to why she did it was because May was singing the song that Ann taught Wade and she felt that Wade was falling in love with Ann....I find that incomprehensible although my mother ..."

Yes, the motivation does not fit the crime. I think if there hadn't been that section from Jenny's POV then I would have had a better time because then I could have just imagined her as a terrible, unhinged person.

And P.S. if it were me, I would kill him before I would harm my children.


message 8: by Ezzy (new)

Ezzy | 30 comments I couldn't get into this book. I didn't understand any of the relationships between the characters. The adults mainly seemed like empty puppets manipulated by the author with no real agency, direction, or development. Everybody just bobs along and reacts inexplicably to things.
The writing style was... nice, but Idaho couldn't take me to a happy book place because nothing about the characters or plot felt real, so I couldn't muster up any concern or care.


message 9: by Katie (new)

Katie (katalia) | 8 comments I really loved this book, but I also have an obsession with “sense of place” novels where the setting (and the characters relationship to it) plays a huge role in the book. Add that to the fact that I grew up in the mountain west an hour from the Idaho border, and you’ve got the recipe for a book that appeals to me for no logical reasons.

I think I loved this book for the questions it never answers. I enjoyed the speculative and unreliable-ness of all of the stories and memories. How Ann inserted herself into moments where she may not have been a factor. I wish we knew Jenny’s motives — I don’t think it was the song. But, I could see it being a mixture of a lot of things that living on a mountain in the middle of nowhere with two small kids and the very real possibility that your husband will soon be unrecognizable to you due to mental illness could bring out in a person ...


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I liked the first part very much, and thought I was headed for a great read. But, I grew tired and then annoyed with the meandering narrative and scenes cut short to withhold the most important details.


message 11: by Trudie (new)

Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments Ezzy "I couldn't get into this book. I didn't understand any of the relationships between the characters. The adults mainly seemed like empty puppets manipulated by the author with no real agency, direction, or development. Everybody just bobs along and reacts inexplicably to things."

I don't really get the love for this book either. I thought the writing pretty and lyrical and in some places rather stunning but the overall story did very little for me. I was a little mystified as to why the "shocking event" occurred and would have liked to learn more about the aftermath but it's just not that kind of book.


message 12: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 155 comments Trudie wrote: "Ezzy "I couldn't get into this book. I didn't understand any of the relationships between the characters. The adults mainly seemed like empty puppets manipulated by the author with no real agency, ..."

The writing in and of itself was poetic and I get the gist behind leaving loose ends. That's how life is. You never get the full picture, just a sliver from your own jaded perspective. However, I found most of the female characters quandries. Could I put myself into their shoes? No absolutely not. Ann with her imaginings -- placing herself into the crime scene. Her acceptance of her husband's violence during his bouts of dementia was a bit much for me. I also didn't understand what came over Elizabeth when she attacked Sylvia. Not to mention Jenny's motives.


message 13: by Margot (new)

Margot (goodreadscommerelybookish) | 11 comments This was my favourite book of 2017. I loved everything about it. I've read enough to know lots of people don't agree with me, but I thought it was a stellar debut and showed such incredible skill and restraint. That ending! I think it's unlikely but I'd be absolutely THRILLED if it won the Rooster.


message 14: by Brandon (new)

Brandon L | 10 comments I started reading Idaho this morning! I live in the Pacific Northwest, so some of the natural descriptions are hitting home. I’m interested to see where this goes.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Brandon wrote: "I started reading Idaho this morning! I live in the Pacific Northwest, so some of the natural descriptions are hitting home. I’m interested to see where this goes."

I just got mine from the library (along with The Animators and The End of Eddy) so I am eager to dig in!


message 16: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments totally not reading the thread cuz i don't want spoilers, but i'm about 20 pages into this and i want to believe that the occasional sloppy writing is caused by sloppy editing and now by sloppy thinking, iyswim. since you seem happy (quick quick glance) i'll stick with it.


message 17: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments jo wrote: "totally not reading the thread cuz i don't want spoilers, but i'm about 20 pages into this and i want to believe that the occasional sloppy writing is caused by sloppy editing and now by sloppy thi..."

wait. another quick glance and i see not everyone is happy. what do i do?


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments jo wrote: "jo wrote: "totally not reading the thread cuz i don't want spoilers, but i'm about 20 pages into this and i want to believe that the occasional sloppy writing is caused by sloppy editing and now by..."

Try it until you decide what YOU think, I think.


message 19: by Katie (new)

Katie | 127 comments What a strange book this one was for me! I listened to it which always plays a roll in how I perceive a book. The narrator was very good. When it started I was sure I would love it but as it went on threads just lost me a little. I didn't really mind that it was a kind of unreliable narrative (Ann imagining what happened vs Jenny telling us). Oddly enough I found a lot of the prison sections most compelling. Jenny and Elizabeth and Elizabeth's perhaps paranoia? Am I the only person that kept thinking June killed May? The part of me that reads crime/murder mystery kept waiting for some kind of twist especially when the story veered back to Elliot. Alway I liked it but didn't love it and even with the uncertain/unreliable stuff it still seemed to veer too far into some storylines and just felt a little scattered for me.


message 20: by Michelle (last edited Jan 13, 2018 08:19PM) (new)

Michelle | 155 comments Katie wrote: "Am I the only person that kept thinking June killed May?"

I was thinking that too because that was the only way I could explain Jenny's behavior that made sense to me. But then I wasn't sure if that was the story that Ruskovich wanted to tell or if I was trying to package the story into something that was palatable for me.


message 21: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "Try it until you decide what YOU think, I think."

wut. make up my own mind? do i know how to do that? i don't think i do!!!


message 22: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "jo wrote: "jo wrote: "totally not reading the thread cuz i don't want spoilers, but i'm about 20 pages into this and i want to believe that the occasional sloppy writing is caused by sloppy editing..."

jenny! you've had it all day!!!!!!! do you like it????????????


message 23: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 459 comments I didn't like this one at all. It just seemed too far-fetched and I could never figure out what Ann's motivations were for anything - she never seemed like a real character.

There was a nice evocation of place, and of what living in an isolated location would feel like, but the lack of believability was something I could never get past.


message 24: by Gaby (new)

Gaby | 32 comments If you enjoy books that have absolutely no point, a cast of characters that you really don't care about, unresolved conflicts and not able to conjure even the slightest emotion, then this book is for you. I don't like giving bad reviews, but when a book like this makes the TOB I feel that I must chime in. How many great books were overlooked so this could be in tournament.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments All of this negative commentary is so interesting to observe. I feel like I spent 2017 reading glowing reviews of this book and hearing about it on numerous podcasts. Is it that it doesn't hold up compared to the others? I'm interested to see how I'll feel once I dig in.


message 26: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 155 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "All of this negative commentary is so interesting to observe. I feel like I spent 2017 reading glowing reviews of this book and hearing about it on numerous podcasts. Is it that it doesn't hold up ..."
This was the 2nd book that I read from this year's TOB so that wasn't it for me. Tbh I had no interest on reading this before the TOB.


message 27: by Kristin-Leigh (new)

Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments I absolutely loved this! I'm glad I heard that the "mystery" remains unresolved going in, as it allowed me to let go of that piece and focus on the rest - the idea of secret selves, completely distinct versions of oneself that emerge or are subsumed as time passes, and questions of how memory creates self, and how experiences shape a person even if those elements (whether the rules to a game of M.A.S.H. or the loss of a daughter) are later forgotten.

Part of me wondered if June-the-daughter really even existed in the end, or if she was there more as a symbol of the other characters' states of mind than a person. Am I right in saying she was the only major character with no chapters of her own to narrate?


message 28: by Trudie (last edited Jan 15, 2018 02:07PM) (new)

Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments Kristin-Leigh wrote: "I absolutely loved this! I'm glad I heard that the "mystery" remains unresolved going in, as it allowed me to let go of that piece and focus on the rest - the idea of secret selves, completely dist..."

Wow, you have given me pause for thought on how I interpreted this novel now. I almost feel I need to reread this not being so hung up on the "mystery".
I had never questioned the reality of June but thats such an interesting suggestion !


message 29: by Kristin-Leigh (new)

Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments All of the violence in the book was so heavily laden with ambiguous symbolism, I'm gonna be thinking about those parts especially for a long time - Wade forcing Ann's face down like a dog's when he's struggling with his loss of memory (/self?), Elizabeth attacking Sylvia in prison because she fears she's losing her individual identity to their "remember when?" game, Jenny killing May because...she's seen something in May she doesn't recognize and fears her becoming a separate individual like June? Because she hears her singing the song Wade learned from the other woman he loves?

This is the kind of book I could chew on for quite a while - I can't wait to read the ToB pieces on it! though this comment is making me realize I should look up the name spellings, I listened to this one on audio (a choice I'm really happy with, as the narration and singing were lovely).


message 30: by Kristin-Leigh (new)

Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments @Trudie I'll admit at first the mystery is what dragged me into the book and got me hooked! so when I saw folks here talking about how the murder is never fully explained I was really frustrated - but it made me pay a lot of attention as I was trying to understand what else could be going on, what else the author could be trying to get to if not the gruesome details of a crime story. usually I like to read books unspoiled but this is one instance where I think having that spoiler actually improved my reading experience!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments I read this book yesterday, all of it. I stayed up late to finish it. I was completely absorbed! So I'm going to be the dissenter and say it was one of my favorites of the tournament so far, although not quite a five-star read as three of the others have been (Lincoln in the Bardo, Goodbye, Vitamin, White Tears).... what I'm realizing though is that the books I'm enjoying most are not straightforward linear narrative. And neither is Idaho. It isn't about the crime or the mystery, and it isn't really about alzheimers, although all those things are present.

It reminded me in some ways of Reservoir 13, the Man Booker Prize longlisted book that starts with a missing child, never solves the puzzle, and turns into a meditative novel on the life cycle of nature and people in the area. Once I figured out what that author was doing, I relaxed into it and really enjoyed the writing. I think it isn't as obvious that Emily Ruskovich is doing that, but I think she is. And I was so interested in the mundane lives of the characters in their different timelines that I was hooked regardless.

A comment to my Instagram post about it helped me understand what I was trying to say, so I will quote that person and credit them accordingly:
"To me it seemed to be 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 workout his memories? Is May still May when June no longer wants to play with her? Is Eddie still Eddie if his leg was lost through some malicious schoolgirl's violent act rather than a traffic accident? Is Elizabeth still Elizabeth if she imagines her life before prison still had Sylvia in it? Etc. It's an interesting topic, and I thought Ruskovich wrote really beautifully real characters - even when circumstances seemed fantastic it still felt very rooted in reality, at least emotionally. This is one of my favorites of the shortlist that I've read so far!"
- Kimesoftly in a comment to my instagram post about Idaho


message 32: by Kristin-Leigh (last edited Jan 16, 2018 09:41AM) (new)

Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments Haha that's me! Hi, Jenny, I've been loving your posts on the ToB instagram tag!

(If only I'd been more mindful of my autocorrect when posting it, HA. No, I don't think Eddie was hit by a car...that was supposed to be "tragic")


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Kristin-Leigh wrote: "Haha that's me! Hi, Jenny, I've been loving your posts on the ToB instagram tag!"

Hi! I thought your comment was so insightful I just had to share it, obviously. :)


message 34: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 362 comments What I really like about the TOB discussions here is the opportunity to see what other readers hated in a book that I loved and vice versa. So I am really enjoying reading the “pro” positions about this title which I didn’t like very much.

The discussion is reminding me of the one from last year about My Name is Lucy Barton…not because there are similarities in the writing style or story telling but rather in the fact that there are big gaps in both stories that some readers are easily able to fill and other readers (like me) can’t make that leap.

I really loved Lucy Barton, however. But I probably also approached it differently.


message 35: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 16, 2018 01:52PM) (new)

Ruthiella wrote: "The discussion is reminding me of the one from last year about My Name is Lucy Barton…not because there are similarities in the writing style or story telling but rather in the fact that there are big gaps in both stories that some readers are easily able to fill and other readers (like me) can’t make that leap."

I like it when the author leaves some gaps for the reader to fill. Strout did that beautifully in My Name is Lucy Barton, my favorite book of last year's bunch. I think Ruskovich went wrong through a lack of finesse. She repeatedly led me to believe that I was about to find out the secrets, and then cut the scene short. That strategy worked to build suspense at first, but then it became predictable and annoying to me. Maybe I would have felt that same frustration with Lucy Barton had it been a longer book.


message 36: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 642 comments Good....I'm not the only one who was reminded of Elizabeth Strout when reading Emily Ruskovich.


message 37: by Kristin-Leigh (new)

Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments Interesting - I loved Idaho but HATED Lucy Barton! My notes have it down as "cloyingly sentimental," which isn't particularly useful for present discussion...though it does make me wonder whether I'd call Idaho "sentimental" or not - I think I would, especially re: nostalgia around music and childhood. I wonder what it is about "cloying sentimentality" that works for me in Idaho but really didn't in Lucy Barton.


message 38: by Brandon (new)

Brandon L | 10 comments I couldn't do it. This was a DNF for me. (Is there a way to reflect this in the Goodreads interface?) The material here was so heavy, and when I told my other friends what I was reading, and how sad it all was, every single person asked me "Why are you reading this?!" It felt a little similar to when I was reading "An Untamed State" but I felt Gay switched between the brutal aspects of the novel and more normal versions enough to keep me from feeling like the book was too much.

Ruskovich on the other hand, I felt, just kept throwing terrible thing after terrible thing, with no breather. Which happens sometimes in life, but I didn't want to put myself through that necessarily. I gave the novel 60-70 pages but just could not bring myself to commit further, and picked up anything lighter to counterbalance the omnipresent unpleasantness in this novel.


message 39: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 19, 2018 12:47PM) (new)

Brandon wrote: "I couldn't do it. This was a DNF for me. (Is there a way to reflect this in the Goodreads interface?) The material here was so heavy, and when I told my other friends what I was reading, and how sa..."

I created a DNF shelf. Books that I abandoned are shelved under READ and tagged DNF.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 626 comments Tina wrote: "Brandon wrote: "I couldn't do it. This was a DNF for me. (Is there a way to reflect this in the Goodreads interface?) The material here was so heavy, and when I told my other friends what I was rea..."

If you make it an exclusive shelf, it can be separate from read or to-read too, which I like. Go to edit shelves, check the box/bullet for "exclusive."


message 41: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments I'm 80% through it, and I'm thinking:

SPOILER:






June killed May. Jenny blamed herself for not seeing the relationship between the girls was leading to this, and took the fall. Wade never knew June was the real culprit.


message 42: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Eric wrote: "I'm 80% through it, and I'm thinking:

SPOILER:


Hmmmm, interesting, Eric -- food for thought!



June killed May. Jenny blamed herself for not seeing the relationship between the girls was leading to this, and took the fall. Wade never knew..."



message 43: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments We find that June may have placed Eliot's backpack on the rotting dock in order to harm him, so the potential of June being a murderous psychopath is there.


message 44: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments I was trying to embed the Youtube video of "Take Your Picture Off the Wall", which is a song Mike Ruskovich (Emily's father) wrote and sang. Look it up. It's a very pretty and poignant song.


message 45: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 642 comments Interesting take Eric, I never for a minute thought that June killed May. I suppose that as a mother, I recognized that *snap* moment that happened to Jenny even though I couldn't actually wrap my head around it. If I hadn't already returned the library book, I'd be rereading for clues right now.


message 46: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments The whole reconstruction of the event is Ann's, and she wasn't there. She was just imagining how it happened. We know Jenny feels the guilt.

I also wonder about the significance of the school bus at the summit. It seems like there's something sinister at play there. It seems the place has been vacated by the hermit bus driver, if indeed he was ever there.

There's also the disturbing nearby presence of the neo-Nazis.


message 47: by Kristin-Leigh (new)

Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments Personally the neo-Nazi presence is something I wrote off as "just Idaho" - it would be revisionist to set a novel in northern Idaho during the past 40 years and never mention them once! It seemed like a further exploration of the themes of friendly/otherwise kind people having darkness hidden in the depths.


message 48: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments My wife is from Idaho. Specifically, Buhl, which is a long way south from the panhandle.


message 49: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 642 comments I lived in Boise for 2 years....I didn't meet any neo-Nazis that I was aware of.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Janet wrote: "I lived in Boise for 2 years....I didn't meet any neo-Nazis that I was aware of."

Several white supremacist groups are (were?) in Northern Idaho-- Coeur d'Alene and the surrounding area.


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