Friday 18 June 2021

Review by Maryam Benrezzouk of "Idaho" by Emily Ruskovich

If you want to read a book that makes you feel like you are watching an emotive film, then Idaho is the book for you.

Emily Ruskovich has a natural affinity for words. They are like vines, growing around the pages and entwining with her story, so they cease to be black letters on a white page, instead becoming a blurred window onto her motion picture. She doesn’t just describe things, she adds a voice to them, increasing the volume when she needs to and beaming radio silence when the moment shouts for it. And what a loud silence it is. Behind everything is the soft piano music, gently playing to the rhythm of the characters’ lives as they go forward and backward in time.

It is all very well for me to talk about the poetic nature of Ruskovich’s writing, but I expect the burning question you have is: what is this book about? And I shall tell you, but not all in one breath, because I want to do the book justice.

It’s about a family, both past and present, shattered by horrific events and a degenerative disease. It is breathtaking, yet slow paced. It rises and rises in pitch as the book goes on, crashing loudly and beautifully at its highest peak, and then softly trundling down a rocky mountain towards the end. Ruskovich uses her writing talent to create a sequence of images of beautiful Idaho, her characters and their arcs.

It is a slow read, but there is so much to take in, and it leaps about between timelines, so it is sometimes hard to keep up. I was also left frustrated at the end because there were questions there that I felt weren’t answered sufficiently. I sat back and thought about that, however. The book was written in such a way as to reflect real life themes, emotions and human growth and change, and in real life there aren’t always answers - there are only humans dealing with questions, and growing with them, until they become part of what defines us.

Emily Ruskovich ensnared me with her rich poetic prose. She traverses the rocky terrains of treacherous topics and manages to make something vibrantly and painfully beautiful.


About the reviewer
Originally born in London, Maryam Benrezzouk then moved with her family to Leicester, after spending a good chunk of her life growing up in a hot country in the Middle East. She enjoys writing short stories and novels, spinning drama with a touch of fantasy. She runs two blogs on which she frequently publishes her writings, and also writes short stories for a children's magazine.

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