Book Review: Idaho

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
Author: Emily Ruskovich
Pages: 336
Published: January 3, 2017
Available in Paperback: YES
Genre: Literary Fiction (sort of a cerebral mystery, in my opinion)
For my first book review, I decided to choose a novel my Book Club chose for January (I suggested it, after all). In 2018, I want to try and read (or listen) to a book at least once per month. If time allows, I would love to read more. I’ll be honest and share the pros and cons of the books and I’ll be sure to warn you of any spoilers before you read too much! Without further ado, let me begin.
Idaho is Emily Ruskovich’s debut novel. She graduated from the University of Montana (like me, go Griz!) and received her MA from the University of New Brunswick in Canada. She grew up in northern Idaho which is where her novel takes place. Idaho is the story composed of many stories. Some obscure to the reader and to the characters themselves. Without giving too much away, Idaho is about a woman, Ann, who marries a man, Wade, with a family history of early Alzheimer’s/dementia. As Wade ages, Ann tries to piece together Wade’s earlier life, before he married Ann. When Wade was a young man, he married Jenny, who is now in prison for an unthinkable act of violence committed one summer afternoon. Ann has become obsessed with Wade’s past and Jenny’s future and does all she can to piece together what happened so many years ago…
If that doesn’t draw you in to being excited about this novel, I don’t know what will! I kept seeing Idaho on lists of books to read so I was excited to finally get my hands on this book. There were a lot of ups and downs for me, questions that I still wanted answers to, and times when I, much like Ann, tried to fill in the gaps on my own. Here are a few of my generic pros and cons of the novel –


At 336 pages, Idaho is a manageable read.
The characters are well developed and leave you wanting more.
The book is very realistic and feels rooted in our earth. Nothing seems implausible.
The prose of the book is nice. The language is serene and appropriate throughout, even lyrical at times!
Relationships and themes of love, friendship, and understanding are present and well constructed throughout the entire novel.
It truly is incredibly written!


Leaves you with a lot of questions (which can be good or bad depending on what you like to read!).
Sometimes the passages are a bit dense (although beautifully written) which can make the reading feel a bit heavy.
The non-linear timeline can sometimes leave you questioning what has already happened and what has yet to happen and leave the reader a little lost.
If you are interested in reading this novel, STOP READING MY REVIEW NOW and go pick up a copy! If you’ve already read it, or if for some reason my intriguing description above doesn’t tickle your fancy and you want to know more of my thoughts on the book, forge on ahead!
My bookclub was pretty torn on this novel. Overall it was well received, but there were quite a few discussions on what people thought did or didn’t happen. One popular theory was that June murdered her little sister and her mom took the fall to protect her only living daughter. I personally disagreed with this novel. I had no doubt that Jenny killed May, as was expressed in the book. As to why she killed May, that’s kind of the whole point of the novel. People do things, sometimes, and they have no idea why. This was sort of just an extreme case of that, in my opinion. At one point, when Wade is telling Ann what happened, he says, “It’s not something that Jenny did. It’s just something that happened to her.” I loved that explanation. Haven’t you ever just done something and immediately thought, “Why did I just do that?” Obviously, killing your own child is a bit of a stretch, but if, l like Ann suspected, May was singing one of the songs she was teaching Wade, maybe Jenny sensed it. Wade tells Ann that he loved her from the moment he met her, while he was still with Jenny. Did Jenny sense a growing rift in her marriage? Was it escalated by the fact that she lived in isolation on a mountain? Did the thought of being isolated on her mountain in a failing marriage cause Jenny to snap in the most unthinkable of ways? These are all questions the reader is left with at the end of Idaho.
Overall, I liked the book, but it wasn’t something that leaves you feeling very closed when you’re done. You’re going to have more questions than answers. Why did Jenny murder May? Where did June end up? You’d think that a little nine year old girl couldn’t get too far as to lose police officers and searching dogs, but apparently she can. Did she go start a new life somewhere? Was she, perhaps, the mysterious Ivy that ends up with Ethan after all? She was described as being a bit tattered, like a homeless girl would. Still, why wouldn’t she ever make contact with her father again?
In my opinion, it was a great book for a bookclub! So many people had so many different thoughts and opinions on the book that we had a solid hour of discussion with no pauses! People had to leave because it was getting so late but the discussion wasn’t dwindling. It was a beautiful debut novel from Emily Ruskovich, and I do recommend it if you haven’t read it yet!



I thoroughly enjoyed Idaho, so I am giving it a 4.5 out of 5 stars! It was well written, thoughtfully planned out, and beautifully done, despite the many questions I was left with at the end. Bravo!
Have you read Idaho? Do you now want to read Idaho? If you’ve read it, what did you think of it? Do you agree or have any other theories? Let me know in the comments!

2 Replies to “Book Review: Idaho”

  1. Margaret Elizabeth Wing says: Reply

    I came looking here for thoughts on all the unanswered Qs you had PLUS what was the whole point of the Elliott (or was he deed Ethan) and Ivy chapter? I thought this would be explained towards the end. I too really loved the book overall – superb imagery and language 0

  2. Cheryl Luchin says: Reply

    I really thought Ivy could be June, except for the age discrepancy. Maybe the creepy “emu” family found her and kept her captive. That would explain the shabby clothing? And her fixation on the stakes from the dock. It was pretty evident that June was the one who left Elliott’s backpack there, for whatever reason (she WAS a little strange!). Maybe she was trying to “write” his story the way she did with her dolls . . .in spite of the unanswered questions, it’s a beautiful book. The masterful use of language blew me away!

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