3 of 20
320 pages; Random House
Ann and Wade live on a rugged mountainside far from neighbors, but while they're isolated, they're hardly alone. A horrific tragedy looms in Wade's past—an event he can no longer remember and Ann can never forget. Idaho, the devastating debut novel from Emily Ruskovich, excavates the mental and physical landscape surrounding the loss of Wade's first family, using different time periods and multiple points of view to tell a textured, emotionally intricate story of deliverance.

Wade, like his father before him, suffers from early-onset dementia. Ann is left to piece together what she knows of the trauma involving his first wife, Jenny, and their daughters, May and June, with the clues for which she constantly hunts. It's an obsessive's task. Her mind "opens an eye" as she embeds herself in memories of her own creation, witness to a scene she was not part of. Or was she?

Jenny, Wade, Ann, May and June—not to mention a thick supporting cast—are drawn with empathy and psychological care; the result is a completely immersive world. Ruskovich allows her characters deep and active imaginations, imbuing them with dignity and humanity. Each has the power to break your heart.

And Idaho is rich not just with plot but with language. Ruskovich's soothing style contrasts with and serves to amplify the unspeakably brutal act at the story's core. Love, too, is described with an intensity that makes the pulse race, especially when seen through the complicating lens of one partner's memory loss: "She felt everything leave him but her. She shed her own life, too, to match him. They lay there together like a point in time." Ruskovich's writing is a deft razor, able to etch the finest of distinctions and truths.

The novel's defining act happens in a split second, yet its aftereffects reverberate so profoundly, they echo beneath every word and between every line of sharp prose. Idaho makes a convincing argument that no one is ever blameless, nor beyond redemption. 
— Kelly Luce