by Emily Ruskovich
Chatto & Windus
There’s a moment early in Idaho when readers may realise what a mysterious, haunting and assured story they are about to read. A woman (Ann) recalls returning some years earlier to find small holes in the front door of her remote home. Frightened, she searches for her husband, Wade, and realises he has been sawing cat flaps. The strain and tension are evident but it takes the entire novel to understand why this might be. Similarly, strange details punctuate the quietly gripping plot. Ann falls for Wade while he is still married to his first wife, Jenny. The couple meet after Ann discovers his young daughter, June, holding an ornate knife. If this hints at violence to come, Wade’s reasons for asking Ann for piano lessons anticipate Ruskovich’s narrative games with memory. “I heard it’s […] good for the brain,” he says, as if presaging his later battle with Alzheimer’s. The plot turns on a central tragedy: the death of his other daughter, May, allegedly at her mother Jenny’s hand. The tone is serious, the writing spare but evocative, the structure elegantly teasing.