A Novel

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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. Worth Star-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
Publisher: 2017
ISBN: 9780812994056
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
May 22, 2019

Shortlisted for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award.

May 19, 2019

This book left so many unanswered questions. Why did the mother kill her daughter. What happened to the daughter that was left at the murder scene. What about the couple who never had any children. What did that have to do with anything. I kept reading thinking eventually the questions would be answered, but they never were. A good read but as others said unsatisfied over all.

May 18, 2019


Oct 31, 2018

I agree with everything readers have said: from why did June do it, what's the story of Eliot all about, to beautifully written. I found the flipping back and forth in time annoying toward the end - way too mysterious for the kind of read that this novel held in potential. I always feel bad for the writer and as a close reader when I start glazing over the prose to find the next reason to keep on reading.

I hope Emily will keep writing beautiful books but also hope that the next one has more of the why of plot and characterization included.

Apr 25, 2018

Wade and Jenny live on a backcountry Idaho farm with daughters June and May, seemingly happy until a tragic summer day when May is killed and June disappears. The intense sadness of these losses permeate the story, one almost too hard to read except for the author’s incredibly lyrical writing. That the publishers classified the book as a ‘mystery’ or ‘thriller’ is a disservice. What were they thinking? There is no strong linear plot that tracks a killer or a girl on the run. This is strong psychological and very literary fiction. No wonder the varying reviews. The book is an ambitious debut novel set in a beautiful place in the West; it tells haunting stories of love and remembrance about which one won’t soon stop thinking. One of the author’s literary heroes is esteemed Alice Munro. There were hints of her kind of stories in this book and that’s a good thing!

Feb 02, 2018

Emily Ruskovich writes beautifully. It’s obvious she knows about the wilds of Idaho, and she crafts poetic sentence after poetic sentence. The places in her story — the house, the woods, the tractor, the prison — are real. I can see them and she makes me know what it’s like to be there. I loved reading Idaho. But the main event — a mother inexplicably killing one of her daughters with a hatchet — just lies there with no reason. The book doesn’t make a mystery of the killing; it’s never really explored and never linked to anything else in the book. Am I to believe she killed her daughter because of a song that was sung by her husband and her daughter’s teacher? I’m not buying that. It left me baffled and feeling a bit shortchanged.

Jan 31, 2018

This is a beautifully written novel, but classifying it as a mystery is a disservice. It's less of a mystery than Celeste Ng's "Everything I Never Told You", but slightly more along those lines.

Sep 05, 2017

Could not get passed the first 100 pages of this book ... the narrative was confusing, and it was never really clear what the main thread of the story was. Mostly it seemed to be a study in guilt, and how it can effect a person over the long term. Around page 100 I just gave up and moved on.

Jul 01, 2017

This debut novel which centers around a mother supposedly taking a hatchet to her daughter is so beautifully written, in a nonlinear fashion from different points of view. I was mesmerized for most of the novel but ultimately unsatisfied.

Jun 07, 2017

This book was a huge disappointment, after all the media hype. I kept waiting to find out why the mother killed her daughter and what happened to the older daughter; these were the central issues of the story. The author didn't answer either question. On a larger, overall issue, the author wants us to sympathize with the mother after she brutally kills her daughter; this is just too much to accept as a believeable ending.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at SL

To Top