Idaho by Emily Ruskovich is a book for people who enjoy a fuse’s slow burn without needing the explosion.
Sure, there’s a murder. It’s a heart-wrenching murder. And there’s a mystery. But “Idaho: A Novel” is not a murder mystery, at least not in a traditional sense. In fact, we find out early in the book who committed murder.
The mystery of Idaho by Emily Ruskovich is not in who killed whom. The mystery is in why. And answering “why” is the plot of “Idaho: A Novel.”
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Idaho by Emily Ruskovich Overview
Five main characters comprise Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. Four of these characters (Jenny, Wade, June, and May) form a family. A fifth character, Ann, forms a family with Wade, but only after Jenny, June, and May exit Wade’s life.
The story unfolds across the present and the past. Chapters, often short and broken into blog post-sized sections, rotate between what’s happening now and what happened then.Check out this #bookreview of Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. Click To Tweet
These glimpses into the past help color between the lines so we can understand the present. Ruskovich handles the flipping between timelines well. There’s not much confusion about what’s happening to whom and when.
It’s this constant tossing between flashback and present day that leads to “Idaho: A Novel’s,” slow-burn storytelling. Little realizations occur throughout the book. And you don’t have to invest much time into reading “Idaho” before you start to be rewarded with these revelations.
But the incessant drizzle of discovery comes at a cost. Readers expecting the big reveal of a whodunit will likely be disappointed.
The breadth of “Idaho’s” story follows Jenny and Ann on disparate timelines, two women who love the same man (Wade). How did they arrive at where we discover them when the book begins? And where do they go from there?
True Stars of Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
There are two stars in “Idaho,” women and the book’s namesake state.
Nearly all of the characters in the novel are female, and the male characters are diminished or diminishing. It’s not a leap to see this as an allegory of man’s declining role in Western society.Here's why women are the real stars in Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. Click To Tweet
The women in “Idaho” are responsible for providing the solutions they seek. The men they encounter throughout the book, however well intentioned, range from unhelpful to oblivious.
Still, the women are not freed of men. They turn to male characters for aid or answers, but they are consistently disappointed by what the men have to offer. And the women are impacted, often negatively, by the dominant actions of men.
It wouldn’t be fair, however, to categorize “Idaho” as anti-male or a feminist mantra. Ruskovich doesn’t appear hell-bent on entering the novel into gender debates.
Instead, the author seems content to suggest men may not be the bee’s knees and yet they still maintain control over many women’s lives.
The other star of Idaho by Emily Ruskovich is, of course, Idaho. The state’s geography and weather play key roles in the novel’s story.
There’s a mountain on which Jenny and Wade live, followed by Ann and Wade. There often is snow on the mountain, and when there isn’t snow the mountain’s residents make preparations for when the snow will come. Indeed, it’s these preparations that serve as a central plot point for the story.
So important is its setting to “Idaho” it calls to mind Norman MacLean’s “A River Runs Through It.” As you cannot separate McLean’s novella from Montana, you cannot cleave “Idaho: A Novel” from Idaho the state.
The prose of “Idaho” may not sing quite as well as MacLean’s, but the former is still a well-written book. It’s a story that will keep you reading, even if it lacks a big explosion.