Saturday, July 22, 2017

29. Idaho

The next two books on the journey were crucial. I knew that I would be traveling for the entire week I was supposed to be reading book 29 and the start of book 30, so I knew they had to be good. Do you put extra pressure on the books you read when you know you'll be on the road or in the air? I totally do. Because, for that couple of hours, you know you won't be able to check your phone for texts or to absentmindedly search Twitter. It's you and the book. And, it better measure up.

Here's book 29, which I began on a two hour flight to San Diego and finished the night before we flew home. Most of it was read on the flight there, but I found myself reaching for it after long days at the beach/at the zoo/with my family. It's captivating. 

I knew I wanted to read Emily Ruskovich's Idaho since the first time I read the jacket in the bookstore. Though, I realize now, it is not at all what I thought it would be. The jacket describes a man living a new life with a new wife, who is only somewhat aware of the life he lived before her. For whatever reason, I imagined the book would be reminiscent of the standoff at Ruby Ridge. Knowing it was set in North Idaho, which I have covered as a journalist for 15 years, I just assumed that's where the author would go. I was wrong, but it very clearly has remnants of the best and worst of this part of the country. The author is from this area and her knowledge of it is woven through this book in a way only a native could write.

So, the book. 

It tells the story of Ann and Wade and the life they have built for themselves in the rugged mountains of North Idaho. Intentionally isolated, in geography and emotion. Each had a life before each other and came together through circumstances that prove we are all, somehow, connected. We are one turn of the road, one phone call, one life experience away from building a new life and new connections. Ann and Wade's love was born from unspeakable violence and tragedy; as Wade's mind fails and he begins to forget all that he's lost, Ann finds herself trying to keep that part of Wade's life alive and together. 

((I love that pulled quote; even more, I love this website it came from, which I plan to devour the rest of today.))

While so much of this book shows these connections we have, it also reminds us that, sometimes, we aren't all meant to find the end of the string. We pull and pull and, sometimes, we unravel instead of tie into a bow. It seems to remind us that while we have this primal need to assign meaning to things, sometimes, life truly is made up of a series of random acts. No matter how hard we try, sometimes things don't always connect.

This book is truly a tapestry, weaving together stories and perspectives. The individual strands cover a foundation of unimaginable loss. The author jumps from perspective to perspective, from year to year. As a reader, you expect that eventually these stories will arrive in a single place. They do not; the question of whether or not you like the book probably comes down to how much you're willing to accept the unfinished nature of it all.

I want the payoff. But, I appreciate that it's not always that simple. I wanted answers for the violence, I wanted resolution to lives, unfinished. But, is the book any worse for not giving them to me? Not at all. It's beautifully written, wonderfully told. The characters are complex and imperfect, much like the storylines that define their lives.

So, was it a good airplane read? Yeah. I lost myself in it, truly. It's the kind of book where you look up and around you and somehow have forgotten that the rest of the world hasn't come along with you. Once I landed, the rough mountain landscape stood in stark contrast to the palm trees swaying around me as I read. I felt deeply for every character, on every page.

Next up, book 30. I started it on the plane ride home and have breezed through 213 pages in two days. Yeah, it's that good. And, may be the perfect summer read. Review, coming soon!

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