logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: emily-ruskovich
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-08-01 17:09
“Idaho” by Emily Ruskovich
Idaho: A Novel - Emily Ruskovich

The title says, "Idaho - A Novel". I think the last bit is an assertion of intent meant to guide people like me who reach the end of the book knowing that I'd read something wonderful but not really being able to label it.

 

Each chapter in "Idaho" is a work of art. Emily Ruskovich can write in a way that makes you fully aware of how a particular person is experiencing something that is vivid and immediate but also ladened with context and possibility.

 

At one point she even helped me see inside the head of a blood hound on a search, head down, ears and folds of skin dampening all other stimuli except the hundreds of scents that contain the one scent I am looking for.

 

It seemed to me, that for much of the novel, I had become that blood hound and that each chapter was a scrap of fabric, soaked in sorrow, confusion, regret, guilt, love and, occasionally hope, that I would bend over and sniff at until I had extracted every scent of emotion and traced the trails of circumstance, intent, memory and consequence that connect the chapters and the people in them.

 

It is an intense, absorbing experience that speaks to my senses and my emotions but, by itself, does not satisfy my need for a narrative leading to some form of release. The nonlinear nature of this narrative, the emphasis on moments of being and intense but bounded insights into a person, meant that reading "Idaho" felt more like experiencing other people's lives than it did reading a novel with a beginning, a middle and an end. I was given lots of hard, emotionally taxing questions but I was offered only the inference of answers, much as I am in real life.

 

There is a narrative. It is triggered by an act of violence that changes the lives of almost all of the characters in the book. Revealing this narrative in a non-linear way is not done to enhance the tension or to build to a great reveal, but to show that we are not the events that we live through. They can harm us or help us but the self we bring to each moment is what shapes the outcome of an event.

 

I'm sorry if that sounds obscure. Emily Ruskovich would never say anything so clumsily as that. It is merely me, trying to find meaning in what I was reading.

 

In "Idaho" I spent time seeing the world through the eyes of many people: May, a six year old girl living an isolated rural life in which her most intense relationship is with June, her older sister, whom she simultaneously loves and resents; Elizabeth, spending her life in prison for murder and trying to allow herself friendship and perhaps even love; Jenny, a woman who is trying to abnegate her right to anything she desires but who cannot stop herself from offering something of herself to others; Wade, a man who has survived tragedy and guilt and love but who is losing himself with each memory that slips out of reach; and Anne, who falls lives a life of sorrow-filled love that she does not feel entitled to cut herself free from.

 

I will remember these people for a long time. I will remember their joys and their pain and their ability to survive as long as they are remembered by someone, even if it is only themselves. I will remember the mountain they lived on and how its wildness and isolation and unforgiving winters shaped them like wind eroding sandstone.

 

Yet I still struggle with "Idaho" as "a novel". Probably this says more about my expectations than about Emily Ruskovich's writing but it changed my experience of the book. If "Idaho" had been a collection of short stories, I'd have gone, "How wonderful. This is like reading Alice Munro" but it was labelled a novel so I found myself expecting more connection.

 

The best example of what I mean is a character in this book, a young man who loses his leg through an accident in high school, who's experiences and thoughts are beautifully described but who seems to have only the most tangential connection to the other people in the book. I invested my imagination in him. I didn't like him but I began to understand him. Yet I couldn't make him fit and my inability to do so distracted and annoyed me.

 

I strongly recommend this book, novel or not. The writing is simply wonderful. The experiences are harrowing but in a way that made me more empathetic than horrified.

I am astonished that this is Emily Ruskovich's debut novel. I look forward to reading everything else that she writes.

 

I listened to the audiobook version of "Idaho" which is read with consummate skill by Justine Eyre. She helped my hound dog follow the scent trails in this book much more easily and with more passion than I had only read the text.

 

I've included below an extract of her performance and a short interview where she talks about her experience in narrating "Idaho"

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/307854062"

params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtXenrTg_MY&w=560&h=315]

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-04-30 12:10
Library Haul
Idaho: A Novel - Emily Ruskovich
The Breakdown - B. A. Paris
All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel - Elan Mastai
The Good People - Hannah Kent
Method 15/33 - Shannon Kirk

Ok, so I have to admit that I am (more than) a little late to the party but I recently discovered Booktube. Embarrassing I agree but there we are, it is out. Anyway, looking at people book hauls I came across the above books and thought they sounded quite interesting. I was horrified to find that our library has raised its reservation fees but nevertheless 3 were reserved and as usual all came in at the same time. So there you have it, I have a busy month ahead of me, it's a good job I've got 2 weeks off!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-02-18 18:51
Idaho-loved it!
Idaho: A Novel - Emily Ruskovich

I absolutely loved this novel. This new inspiring author has captured my attention and I loved the way her words came across the page. I almost abandoned this novel as the first few pages left me wondering why I had chosen this novel to begin with. This story itself is not an easy, fun read but it consists of layers, history and damaged lives that never lie still. The more that I read of this novel, the more I settled into it and a calmness came over me. A calmness. I thought it was crazy just how smoothing this novel was considering the subject matter that I was consuming. It was the author, she was amazing. As I read, the characters realizing the fate that awaited them, Emily’s words of prose were there, a comfort for me.

 

It’s life on the Ponderosa, Wade and Jenny living with their two young children May and June. They were gathering wood, chopping and stacking it, putting it into the back of their pickup truck, it was a wonderful day. Jenny admits to what happens next. Their wonderful day ends in tragedy. Before nightfall, both of their children would be gone. It’s horrible that things turn out this way but this nightmare is far from over as it will haunt Wade and Jenny forever. Reading the journey that these two individuals take after this day was emotional and profound. It wasn’t just their lives that were effected but others they came into connect with. We also journey back in time to the days when this family lived on the homestead, reading about their time spent together as a family before the one event that shattered their lives. This showed just how they felt about one another and how one event can shatter a dream. I can’t wait to see what else Emily writes.

 

“How quickly someone else’s life can enter through the cracks we don’t know are there until this foreign thing is inside of us. We are more porous than we know.”

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-12-05 14:34
Such an extraordinary and haunting tale
Idaho: A Novel - Emily Ruskovich

I truly didn’t want this book to end. At its heart is the story of a tragic act, but it’s so much more than just that act.  Each chapter is a literary work of art.  There’s the story of Wade and Jenny and their two daughters, June and May, and the terrible act that tore them apart.  There’s the story of Wade and Ann and her efforts to heal his broken heart and mind.  There’s the story of Wade and his father and the health issue they share.  There’s the story of June and May, two young sisters living their lives in the days before tragedy strikes.  There’s the story of the friendship between Jenny and Elizabeth.  There’s the story of a young boy who loses his leg in a freak accident.  Each of these stories are tied together but each is worthy of its own telling.

 

The story is not told in a linear fashion. The chapters travel between present, past and future but are not confusing in any way.  Time weaves back and forth to create a beautiful mosaic.  All is tied together – love, forgiveness, regrets, memory, imagination.  Ms. Ruskovich’s book deserves every award I’m sure it will get.   This is one of my favorite books of the year.  Most highly recommended.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?