What’s it all about?:
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, and 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.
In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.
What did I think?:
I first mentioned Idaho as one of the books I needed to read before the end of the year in my Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it. I was drawn in initially by that gorgeous cover and the intriguing synopsis but like a lot of other reviews I have written, I think I started the novel expecting it to be something different from what I eventually got when reading the blurb. This isn’t a bad thing, by any stretch of the imagination, of course I always love being surprised by a novel but I think some readers could have an issue with how many things are left completely unresolved and how much is left for your own speculation at the end.
This is one of those novels where I really don’t want to say too much about the plot. It’s about a family – father Wade, mother Jenny and two little girls, May and June. Something horrific happens one day and one of the parents ends up serving time in prison because of it. The rest of the book jumps around in space and time from 1973 all the way forwards to 2025 and encompasses multiple perspectives, telling the story of how this one event has changed not only this family’s life forever but how it has affected the other minor characters who become embroiled in the family’s lives.
Hopefully, I’ve described this sufficiently, being as vague as possible? I do hate spoilers in a review and I’m very wary of ruining things for other people. Now for my more detailed feelings about it, which I’m afraid are quite mixed. When I first purchased this book, I determined it was probably going to be a five star and that’s always quite a dangerous (but occasionally fun!) thing to predict, especially when it doesn’t work out that way in the end. You see, it didn’t knock my socks off BUT I still think it’s an amazing, beautifully lyrical and stunning read that a lot of other people will adore and appreciate for its literary merit alone.
For me, I found some things quite confusing in the narrative and I felt some parts worked better than others. I felt frustrated with some of the characters and their actions (but can’t go into too much detail about this sadly!) and loved other parts of the novel, especially the parts set in the prison and the stunning descriptions of the surroundings in Idaho which were described to perfection. As for the ending, a lot of things are merely hinted at, not many solid answers are given regarding why the character did what they did that dreadful day in the clearing and, by the completion of the novel, the reader is pretty much guessing for themselves what actually happened. When I read it initially, I have to admit I was super frustrated with this – I really wanted a proper explanation of what had occurred but looking back on it a few weeks after finishing the novel, I feel more at peace with it generally speaking. Yes, I do still have the occasional niggle – “but WHY?!” but it does not take away from how huge a talent I think this author is as a story-teller and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what she does next.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):