Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Review published on December 21, 2017.

This beautifully written and poetic novel is fascinating and disturbing. It starts with an account by Ann, a music teacher and second wife of Wade, who is succumbing to dementia. Wade’s first wife Jenny is in prison for life for murdering their daughter May. May’s sister June is missing.

Ann knows that Wade is forgetting the happy things in life as well as the tragic ones and she is finding it very difficult to deal with this situation.

The story unfolds in layers and patches with accounts by Jenny, Elizabeth, who befriends Jenny in prison, May as a child, but mostly Ann.

Each character knows part of the story, but no one knows exactly what happened as we move backwards and forwards in time.

I loved the descriptions of winter in the mountains and summers working on the land. Wade’s descent into forgetfulness is upsetting to read, but is very well handled by the author. The prison scenes are harrowing, but necessary for our understanding of Jenny. The little girls are wonderfully described and although their part of the story is brief it is pivotal in the novel.

Minor characters are few but add much to the story. I especially enjoyed reading about Tom, a photographer who makes age-progressed photos of missing people.

The power of music is another theme which links family members.

This is a novel which stays in the mind. Because we only know fragments of the whole story through the minds of the narrators of each piece there is no easy conclusion, but by leaving the mystery open-ended, Emily Ruskovich has created a memorable family dealing with tragedy.

Dorothy Anderson 5/5

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
Chatto & Windus 9780701189082 hbk Feb 2017

dir95 pbk?


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