Idaho by Emily Ruskovich and Black Dandy #2

I was asked to read Idaho by one of Ruskovich’s colleagues and another one of her mentors who both mentored me in my own work. This novel is surprisingly subtle, accomplishing a great deal using a minimalist but beautiful prose style and an organization that shines as its most brilliant and noticeable feature.

Idaho tells the story of a central character, Ann, who takes responsibility for her husband’s memory as his memory drifts away. The pieces of his memory that she embraces? His first family, including his ex-wife Jenny and their two daughters. As Ruskovich peels back the years using a variety of narrators, including a bloodhound that I was most impressed with, we learn of the shocking truth that has brought everyone to this version of the future lives they all lead, and the gestures she feels responsible to make for the ultimate redemption of a family in turmoil.

I loved this book and found the structure, style, and overall execution to be a brilliant balance between the literary, the commercial, and the postmodern in a manner that is accessible to most readers. There are some portions that may have felt a little slow-paced, however, every detail ends up being important to the overall story, so the payoff is pretty successful if the readers experience the text with a keen attention. Additionally, there are some beautifully crafted sentences and images throughout. While Ruskovich’s prose makes it easy to breeze through the novel, don’t miss sentences like…

“The revelation of kindness hurts worse than cruelty. There is no way to equal it. Nowhere to put her gratitude, and so it thrashes in her body.”


“The light catches the soft brown hairs of June’s temples, the hairs at the edges of her cheeks. Even, May sees, when June turns her head a little, the tiny hairs running down the slope of June’s nose. Amazing they have been there all along. Amazing in a moment they’ll be gone again. She reaches up her hand to touch them with her fingertip, but June, looking deep into this quiet, too, bats her hand away, and then they both are still again.”

Ruskovich’s Idaho is a stellar debut novel.

The second issue of Black Dandy continues its momentum as an engaging, captivating, discerning speculative fiction magazine.  I felt the second issue’s stories are subtler than the first, taking a hard editorial look at bending the collection in a more literary, character-driven angle while still keeping the strange at the forefront. Some of the pieces were really stand-out for me, namely those by Hanarejima, Evenson, Caselberg, Benningfield, Kuriata, and Lyons. Every story in the collection is a powerful and keen reflection of the world skewed slightly toward the obscure. Lynch and the rest of the editorial board do a fantastic job not only choosing great pieces but curating them into a collection with beautiful pacing that blossoms beautifully through each transition.

(image credit: cc Kees Torn, Wikimedia)

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