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Opening with an act of inexplicable violence, Idaho is a stunning debut about loss, grief and redemption

Winner of the International Dublin Literary Award
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.

Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize


Idaho is a world of vivid particularity, a collection of evanescent traces and tracks, stains and remnants


I love Idaho for the sparse beauty of its prose, the unsolvable mystery at its heart, the cleverly constructed non-linear narrative and its preoccupations… which so closely match my own

Paula Hawkins, Guardian

It’s a set-up that reads straight out of the darkest of psychological thrillers … That an act of such brutality inspires storytelling as beautiful as this is reason enough for this debut novel to stand out from the crowd


Hauntingly brilliant, this book will stay with you for days after you’ve put it down

Evening Standard, Books of the Year

Writing that has the cool sharpness of lemonade... Unflinching, unfrilly, multi-layered storytelling that is both beautiful and devastating

Rachel Joyce

You're in masterly hands here... will remind many of the great Idaho novel, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping... wrenching and beautiful

New York Times Book Review

At first glance this novel looks like a typical example of the 'post-catastrophe' genre... In fact, Idaho is deeper and broader -- and far more interesting... Ruskovich is not afraid of tackling the messy ambiguity of 'real' life, nor the difficulty of truly knowing another person, and she delivers her revelations with assurance and skill

Kate Saunders, The Times

Ruskovich’s writing is well crafted and poetic, particularly when evoking nature and weather in the backwoods, and the contrast with Jenny’s claustrophobic prison half-life is extremely well done. A sad, involving read.

Fanny Blake, Daily Mail

From the first page it is clear that Ruskovich’s poetic, spare writing would be enough to compel on its own, but this extraordinary story of a violent event that decimates a young family in northern Idaho is the true engine here. It’s a puzzle that enthrals from the outset.

Lucy Clark, Guardian

Breathtakingly written, haunting and heartbreaking, Idaho lingers long after it’s finished

Louise Rhind-Tutt, iNews

Devastating... a textured, emotionally intricate story of deliverance... Ruskovich's writing is a deft razor

O, The Oprah Magazine

It is two parts Donna Tartt, one part Daphne du Maurier. Ruskovich shares the former's unnerving knack for isolating her characters... and the latter's for psychological suspense and hauntings... bewitching and heady

Laura Freeman, Spectator

Astonishing... an exquisite examination of how the ripples from a single tragic event play out across a panoply of vividly drawn characters

Big Issue

Riveting… exquisitely rendered with masterful language and imagery. You leave Idaho feeling as though you have been given a rare glimpse into the souls of genuinely surprising and convincing people, as E.M. Forster would have characterized the inhabitants of this world. Idaho is a powerful and deeply moving book, an impressive debut that portends good, even great, things to come

Washington Post

One of the best books I've read this year... Emily Ruskovich's writing is remarkably beautiful; the descriptions of the mountain and the forest are breathtaking. And the fact that she doesn't provide clear answers, that everything is a little hazy, makes it exactly the kind of book I enjoy... The characters are complex and real, their motivations always understated... It is a wonderful book and I'll be recommending it to anyone who will listen

Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days

It’s the writing which is most striking, managing to be both spare and vibrant in what is essentially a dark novel... There’s no black and white here, no neat resolution: questions remain unanswered and it’s all the better for that

A Life in Books

Emily Ruskovich can communicate a world in a sentence


Eerie story about what the heart is capable of fathoming and what the hand is capable of executing... mesmerizing

Marie Claire US

Haunting, propulsive and gorgeously written, this is a debut not to be missed

People Magazine

A dark and poignant debut

Huffington Post

Fans of lush, psychological dramas like Top of the Lake or Broadchurch have their winter reading cut out for them. A provocative first novel filled to the brim with dazzling language, mystery, and a profound belief in the human capacity to love and seek forgiveness

Kirkus (starred review)

Shocking and heartbreaking, Ruskovich has crafted a remarkable love story and a narrative that will stay with readers

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

With lovely language and piercing pathos, Idaho focuses on the power of love and the possibilities of forgiveness and memory. This debut novel deals blows as large as life


In Emily Ruskovich's wizardly vision, Idaho is both a place and an emotional dimension. Haunted, haunting, her novel winds through time, braiding events and their consequences in the most unexpected and moving ways

Andrea Barrett, author of The Voyage of the Narwhal

A novel written like music… 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

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

Exquisitely crafted

Wall Street Journal

Idaho begins with a rusted truck and ends up places you couldn’t imagine. Its language is an enchantment, its vision brutal and sublime

Leslie Jamison, author of The Gin Closet

Beautiful, brutal and incandescent

Deirdre McNamer, author of Red Rover

A strange, uncanny novel, bewitching and heady

Laura Freeman, Spectator

Richly rendered characters, with a well-delineated supporting cast and a strong sense of place. A debut of astonishing maturity.

Tim Blackburn, Guardian

This beautifully written and poetic novel is fascinating and disturbing… This is a novel which stays in the mind.

Dorothy Anderson, Nudge

A powerful debut novel.

The Mail on Sunday

I kept flipping back, over and over, rereading pages and saying ‘Oh my God’ to myself.

William Leith, Evening Standard

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    March 19, 2018


    320 pages

    RRP $19.99

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au



They never drove the truck, except once or twice a year to get firewood. It was parked just up the hill in front of the woodshed, where it collected rain in the deep dents on the hood and mosquito larvae in the rainwater. That was the way it was when Wade was married to Jenny, and that’s the way it is now that he is married to Ann.

Ann goes up there sometimes to sit in the truck. She waits until Wade isn’t paying attention. Today, she comes here under the pretense of getting firewood from the woodshed, dragging a blue sled over the mud and grass and patches of snow. The woodshed isn’t far from the house, but it’s hidden from view by a stand of ponderosa pines. She feels like she is trespassing, like none of this is hers to see.

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