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Idaho: A Novel
by Emily Ruskovich

Published: 2017-01-03
Hardcover : 320 pages
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A stunning debut novel about love and forgiveness, about the violence of memory and the equal violence of its loss—from O. Henry Prize–winning author Emily Ruskovich

Finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award

Ann and Wade have carved out a life for themselves ...
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Introduction

A stunning debut novel about love and forgiveness, about the violence of memory and the equal violence of its loss—from O. Henry Prize–winning author Emily Ruskovich

Finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award

Ann and Wade have carved out a life for themselves from a rugged landscape 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.

Praise for Idaho

“You know you’re in masterly hands here. [Emily] Ruskovich’s language is itself a consolation, as she subtly posits the troubling thought that only decency can save us. . . . Ruskovich’s novel will remind many readers of the great Idaho novel, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. . . .  [A] wrenching and beautiful book.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Sensuous, exquisitely crafted.”—The Wall Street Journal

“The first thing you should know about Idaho, the shatteringly original debut by O. Henry Prize winner Emily Ruskovich, is that it upturns everything you think you know about story. . . . You could read Idaho just for the sheer beauty of the prose, the expert way Ruskovich makes everything strange and yet absolutely familiar.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Mesmerizing . . . [an] eerie story about what the heart is capable of fathoming and what the hand is capable of executing.”—Marie Claire

Idaho is a wonderful debut. Ruskovich knows how to build a page-turner from the opening paragraph.”—Ft. WorthStar-Telegram

“Ruskovich’s debut is haunting, a portrait of an unusual family and a state that becomes a foreboding figure in her vivid depiction.”—The Huffington Post

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. Though at the novel’s center is an act of shocking violence, this is also a story about many different kinds of love. What are these various forms of love? What role does love play in this novel, and how does love contribute to the feelings you are left with in the end?

2. When Wade’s memory begins to fail, Ann endures humiliation and physical pain because of his actions, which, to someone outside of the relationship, would look like domestic abuse. Discuss the ways in which she copes with these episodes. How does Ann interpret these acts of violence, and what does that say about her as a character? Did you feel nervous and uncomfortable about the fine line she is walking between her love and her safety?

3. What are other examples of sacrifice in this novel?

4. Consider the structure of the book: the shifting narrative voices and the shifting timeline, spanning nearly fifty years. How does the book’s structure influence your understanding of each character and his or her story? Discuss also the inclusion of minor perspectives, such as the bloodhound’s and Eliot’s.

5. What role does art play in this story? Consider music, painting, and poetry. How do you understand Tom Clark’s motivations?

6. Near the end of the novel, Ann remembers learning about the history of Idaho’s name. How does this history inform her own life? Why is Idaho the title of this novel? Discuss also the role the landscape plays in the interior lives of all the characters. How would you characterize this landscape?

7. Female friendship and sisterhood are major themes. Discuss the various relationships between the female characters, including the children. Is female friendship the saving grace of this story?

8. How do you interpret the act of violence that is at the heart of this story? Do you feel that Ann’s interpretation is correct? Do you feel the novel provides an absolute answer? Why do you think the author chose to tell only as much as she did?

9. Do you sympathize with Jenny, in spite of what she’s done? Why or why not? If you had to choose only one moment in the story that characterized Jenny, would it be her act of violence, or something else? How do you think she understands herself?

10. Are you surprised by the end of Ann’s story? Jenny’s? Why or why not?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by KRoby (see profile) 06/12/19

 
by aderoz (see profile) 01/09/19

 
by [email protected] (see profile) 12/23/18

This is definitely not a book for reading in bed when your mind is slowly shutting down for the day and you may only get in a few pages before you nod off. It is meant to savor and read in q... (read more)

 
by Ljwagoner (see profile) 01/28/18

3.5 ??. This story was written from several viewpoints that went back and forth through great spaces of time. The writing as a whole was very good, but I feel that some character’s voices didn’t assist... (read more)

 
by [email protected] (see profile) 01/09/18

Did not enjoy.


 
by PiperUp (see profile) 11/18/17

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