Idaho | book review

Idaho

Author: Emily Ruskovich
Series: n/a
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 305
Publisher: Random House
Original Publication Date: 2017
Genre(s): Realistic fiction, Contemporary

On a hot summer day, on a mountaintop in Idaho, a little girl is murdered by her mother, and that girl’s sister disappears forever. The mother goes to prison as she immediately pleads guilty, and the father is left with no one. He marries a woman from his daughters’ school, Ann.

Ann spends the rest of her life picking up her husband’s broken pieces, trying to solve the mystery of why. Why did Jenny kill her daughter? Where is June—still alive, or dead?

What Wade, Jenny, and Ann don’t realize is how this one summer day will affect more than just their own lives—it will affect the lives of many in Idaho.


I loaned Idaho from the library. On the spine resides a sticker with a magnifying glass and reads “Mystery.” Let me tell you now, like I wish I had been told before starting, that this is not a mystery. There are mysteries within the story, but the story itself is not a mystery, and none of the mysteries are ever solved. So, there you have it. If you’re expecting a mystery like I was, now you can safely go into this novel (if you so choose) without that incorrect expectation.

Because I was waiting for the big aha! moment throughout all 300+ pages, the novel ultimately let me down. It wasn’t a bad novel, but it wasn’t the novel I was looking for, and I cannot forgive it for that

Idaho is told in third-person POV and is a maze to follow. The chapters are nonlinear and range from the year 1973 to 2025, following different characters in each chapter and each year. In fact, at times, I had to refresh myself on a character because I forgot who they were, as they were only mentioned briefly in the opening chapter. A character may seem insignificant you to, but you’ll probably see them later in the novel, so pay attention.

Though the story follows many characters, it centers on the relationship between Wade, the grieving father, and Ann, his new wife. With Wade slowly drifting into a disease that’s plagued his bloodline for generations, Ann is left alone to pick him up and, consequently, pick up herself. She also struggles to always keep in mind May and June, Wade’s missing (one dead, one presumed dead) daughters. She cannot let go of their memory, though she never actually met either one. She often imagines herself there on the day of the murder, sometimes giving actions of her own girlhood-self to May or June. Trying to place herself there. Trying to “remember.” Trying to figure out the why. But she never does. And we as readers never do. And that is easily the most frustrating thing about this novel. We also get a lot of pages from Jenny in prison, though again, she never truly opens her mind to that fateful day, never spills any kind of insight into what happened.

Though the novel is well-written and, most of the time, interesting, the ending falls flat, which makes the entirety of the novel fall flat. The novel is already a bit too long at just over 300 pages, and reading 300 pages I should be rewarded with some sort of knowledge of what happened, but I’m not. It’s not a mystery, but rather it’s about how the mystery affects various people’s lives. It’s a study of character and development. And typically I love books like that, and if I would have been given a missing piece to the puzzle, I would probably be praising this novel a bit more.

It wasn’t a bad novel, like I said. It was a bit too long, oftentimes too slow, it jumped around a lot, and I didn’t even like any of the characters, really, but it still somehow captured my interest, and I think it was the assumed promise of a reason why.

If you’re looking for a mystery like I was, stop expecting that immediately, and maybe you’ll finish the book with more love than I did.

Other than that, I don’t have much else to say. It’s one of those novels where I finish it and I’m just like, huh, okay, next.

My Rating

Weep Ranking

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