Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

For the past three years I've been on a mission to read a book set in every state (more on that here.) And my last book and state was Idaho. Because I don't have a lot of options for this state, I didn't feel it was even really worth pondering much if I wanted to read this book. There wasn't much descriptive copy on the ARC anyway, which was fine. And I think I would have shied away, if given the choice. But I'm very glad I didn't!

The main character is Ann. She;s a piano teacher and former choir teacher in Idaho, taking care of her husband who has early-onset dementia. But that's not as bad as it might seem, because that means he doesn't always remember that he once had two children and his first wife killed one of them and the second one disappeared that same day. Interspersed are flashbacks to the early days of Wade's first marriage, the two girls playing together and growing apart, and then flashes to the prison where their mother, Jenny, is serving her sentence. Ann is naturally incredibly curious about what ultimately happened that day--after all she'd seen June, the daughter who vanished, at the school just a few months before and that encounter lead her to have a discussion with Wade, which lead to her giving Wade piano lessons. She feels like a part of the story, but also left out. Although with Wade's faltering memory, he's somewhat left out too.

The book feels languorous and the beginning is somewhat slow going, but you soon get into the mystery and the rich characterizations of these characters' lives--for example getting a sentence of life in prison truly was worse for Jenny than the death penalty would have bee, as living with what she did is very nearly unbearable. This book would be just terrific for book clubs. There's a ton to discuss and I myself would love to talk with someone who's read it as I have some questions myself about motivations and resolutions. The isolation they live with in Idaho is a key component to the story and it is interesting how, several times, Wade and Jenny think about how significant the change is when they move from the prairie lands where they grew up to the mountain, and how that changes their whole outlooks on life and how they see the world.

I was given this ARC for free from a publisher rep who is a friend.

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