One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, sing snatches of songs as they while away the time.
But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction.
In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.
"You know you're in masterly hands here. [Emily] Ruskovich's language is itself a consolation, as she subtly posits the troubling thought that only decency can save us. . . . Ruskovich's novel will remind many readers of the great Idaho novel, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. . . . [A] wrenching and beautiful book." -The New York Times Book Review "Sensuous, exquisitely crafted." -The Wall Street Journal "The first thing you should know about Idaho, the shatteringly original debut by O. Henry Prize winner Emily Ruskovich, is that it upturns everything you think you know about story. . . . You could read Idaho just for the sheer beauty of the prose, the expert way Ruskovich makes everything strange and yet absolutely familiar. . . . She startles with images so fresh, they make you see the world anew. . . . Idaho 's brilliance is in its ability to not tie up the threads of narrative, and still be consummately rewarding. The novel reminds us that some things we just cannot know in life-but we can imagine them, we can feel them and, perhaps, that can be enough to heal us." -San Francisco Chronicle "Mesmerizing . . . [an] eerie story about what the heart is capable of fathoming and what the hand is capable of executing." -Marie Claire " Idaho is a wonderful debut. Ruskovich knows how to build a page-turner from the opening paragraph." -Ft. Worth Star-Telegram "Ruskovich's debut is haunting, a portrait of an unusual family and a state that becomes a foreboding figure in her vivid depiction." -The Huffington Post "Poetic and razor sharp, Idaho is a mystery in more ways than one. . . . Ruskovich's prose is lyrical but keen, a poem that never gets lost in its own rhythm . . . with a Marilynne Robinson-like emphasis on the private, painfully human contemplation going on inside the characters' brains. The result is writing as bruisingly beautiful as the Idaho landscape in which the story takes place." -A.V. Club " Idaho is both a place and an emotional dimension. Haunted, haunting, Ruskovich's novel winds through time, braiding events and their consequences in the most unexpected and moving ways." -Andrea Barrett "It's been six years since I first read Emily Ruskovich's breathtaking prose, felt the force of her unsparing imagination, and knew I was in the presence of a singular talent. I've been waiting for the novel she would write ever since, and now it's here: Idaho begins with a rusted truck and ends up places you couldn't imagine. Its language is an enchantment, its vision brutal and sublime. This book is interested in what can't be repaired and every kind of grace we find in the face of that futility. It caught and held me absolutely." -Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams "Emily Ruskovich's Idaho is a novel written like music. Striking arpeggios, haunting refrains, and then you come to a bridge, and Ruskovich leads you up into the mountains, introducing a chorus of rich and beautiful voices woven deep in the Idaho woods, each trying to come to their own understanding of a terrible tragedy. This book is full of extraordinary women and men overcoming extraordinary loss through love and forgiveness. Ruskovich digs deeply into everyday moments, and shows that it is there, in our quietest thoughts and experiences, where we find and create our true selves." -Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief "Emily Ruskovich has written a poem in prose, a beautiful and intricate homage to place, and a celebration of the defeats and triumphs of love. Beautifully crafted, emotionally evocative, and psychologically astute, Idaho is one of the best books I have read in a long time." -Chinelo Okparanta, author of Under the Udala Trees "Emily Ruskovich has intricately entwined a terrifying human story with an austere and impervious setting. The result-something bigger than either-is beautiful, brutal, and incandescent." -Deirdre McNamer, author of Red Rover