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The majority of Emily Ruskovich’s new novel is voiced by Ann, a former teacher and endlessly devoted second wife to Wade as he battles with early-onset dementia. Though the couple has several years of memories in their secluded Idaho home for Ann to help Wade retain, she can’t help but feel the presence of the daughter he lost and the wife imprisoned for her death.
Idaho is a quiet book, almost masterful in its ability to dodge both convention and gimmick. There’s suspense in waiting for the story to unfold, but it’s a slow realization you’ve been holding your breath over a heart-pounding page-turner. I’m sure some will complain that “nothing happens”, but all I see is brilliant writing and unmistakable atmosphere in that nothing. And all the way through, Ruskovich refuses to believe readers need their hands held, shifting perspectives with little more than dates to note the change and letting stories do the work instead.
This is all rather elusive, but Idaho is a book best read with foggy vision. While there are bits and pieces of the novel that feel misplaced, like they’ve not been given the same care as the rest of the story, it’s an amazingly powerful book that’s set an extremely high bar for my reading year.