Saturday, August 26, 2017

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

A sudden moment of violence on an Idaho mountaintop reverberates through the years.   Will and Jenny have two little girls, May and June.  Afterwards, their lives will never be the same and we follow their stories for decades.

Will is cursed with a family history of early dementia and death in the early fifties if his life follows that of his father and grandfather.  He and Jenny moved to Idaho from the plains as they couldn't think of anywhere more different than the environment in which they grew up.  After the violence, the couple divorce.  Will later marries his piano teacher, Ann.

Jenny spends the following decades in prison.  She is as appalled by her actions as everyone else, and doesn't speak to others.  She spends five years living by herself and spends her days scrubbing floors.  She is convinced she doesn't deserve to have anything go her way again in her life, even things as small as food choices or work assignments.  Years later, she develops a friend, her cellmate Elizabeth.

Ann lives with Will for the rest of his life.  He doesn't speak about the tragedy and she is left to ferret out clues to figure out what happened that day.  Her imaginings are sometimes on point, sometimes just that; figments of her imagination.  Will is the love of her life and there is nothing she won't do if she thinks it will bring him a moment of happiness.

A winner of the O'Henry Award in 2015, this startlingly beautiful novel is Ruskovich's debut.  The language is haunting and beautiful.  A small example: 'Outside, the coyotes' howls bore tunnels through the frozen silence.  The ravens in the trees anticipate the spring, when they will nudge their weakest from their nests, this act already in their hearts, as if already committed.  The garter snakes, deep in the ground, hibernate alert.  Bodies cold, unmoving; minds twitching, hot.  So many secret, coiled wills, a million centers spiraling out, colliding into a clap of silence that is this very moment in the house, the beautiful oblivion in which they love each other.'  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.v

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