Book Talk: Idaho

Jennifer Mendez Literary Analysis Leave a Comment

Have you read Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich yet? Releasing on February 16th, we got an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review. So if you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry! You have time to decide whether you even should—a decision we can help you make with the details you absolutely need.

Oh, and no spoilers!


On a hot August day a family arrives at a mountain. Between collecting birch wood, the story begins to unfold in the most beautiful, serene of ways. There’s lopping of small limbs and stacking. Lemonade drinking and swatting away horseflies. There’s even light bickering, as with every family.

But then, things unexpectedly change, and the family is forced to scatter in different directions. This is when the story is narrated from multiple perspectives. Readers gradually learn about the events, and the way each character is affected.


This book is intense. So intense, in fact, that readers are left lost in thought, marveling at life and its challenges. If Emily Ruskovich wanted to make her readers struggle with the why’s and the how’s, then she succeeded. She may have even surpassed expectations.

Some of these questions are mind boggling, because they aren’t typical. Questions like what happens if you lose the memory of losing someone, but never forget the loss? Can the pain from that loss remain?

This is the type of book that avid readers love and casual readers hate. If you haven’t read a book in a year, Idaho isn’t the one to start with. It’s deep and challenging, confusing and and brilliant, and requires that you study the text.


For starters, this isn’t a light read. It requires focus and determination, especially with all the different perspectives going on. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, although it isn’t a terrible thing. It actually makes the book more addicting for some readers.

However, it’s the fact that there are alternating character perspectives and timelines that make this more complex. Clearly Ruskovich is detailed and wants to convey the events leading up to the major event, but she’s sacrificed her ability to keep things concise. It isn’t terrible, but it’s not ideal either.

The Verdict

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich is a brilliant novel about love, loss and life. It’s unique and mesmerizing. Its complexity is something to marvel at. And yet, it’s this complexity that alienates readers who don’t want to read something so challenging.

The story is perfect for readers who don’t mind struggling with concepts and questions. Readers who love a challenge are rewarded for being so dedicated. But the reward isn’t what you’d expect. The reward isn’t answers. It’s more mind boggling questions.

You might wonder why anyone would want to read a novel that makes them question so many things they wouldn’t otherwise think about, but the answer is the one simple aspect of Idaho: to view things in a different perspective. Emily Ruskovich’s genius is not overlooked in this simplicity.

About the Author

Jennifer Mendez

Jennifer Mendez has brought insightful articles to From author interviews to how literature meets gaming to expert insight into tools and writing processes, her dedication to helping our author community is quite inspiring. You can find more of her writing at

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