Wednesday, May 15, 2019



I had heard of Idaho on a podcast and had put in on my list of books to look for at the used book store, but it was never there.  I finally ordered it and it was worth it!  This is Emily Ruskovich's first novel and in 2018 it was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Ann was teaching piano at a local school and one day Wade Mitchell showed up requesting lessons.  Wade was the father of two young girls who attended the school.  That summer, Wade and his family went out in his truck on an adventure and suddenly out of the blue, his wife, Jenny, killed their youngest daughter.  The other daughter ran away and was never seen again.  Jenny was convicted and imprisoned for the murder.  Ann and Wade married after a time, and Ann began trying to piece together what had happened that summer day.  Meanwhile, Wade was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease and was often violent.

This story could have been like a psychological thriller, but it turned into 
a kind of psychological examination, as Ann studied the small things that she was able to learn about Jenny and why she would have killed her little girl.  Ann also tried to find Wade's other daughter who had run off.

The novel goes back and forth in time over a 50 year time span.  It is a fascinating study of a family.  I spent a lot of time thinking about this book after I read it.

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

I had wanted to read Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance for quite awhile, but just hadn't picked it up. It was chosen by one of my book groups, so that was my chance!

I was surprised how easily this book read.  It is the story of J.D. Vance and how he lived and survived his upbringing.  It is a story of success for the author's life, but is also a stunning look at what the lives of "hillbillies, rednecks or white trash" are, how they deal with what life has given them and how society works against their chances of getting out of the poverty of their lives.  The book tells the real story of what it is like to be born into poverty and the difficulties that come with that.

Vance was essentially raised by his grandmother, herself being a survivor of poverty. She was a hell-raiser and a strong influencer and proponent of her grandson.  Vance completed high school, joined the Marines, then went to college, graduated and went on to Yale Law School. He wrote "I was one lucky son of a bitch."

The book is full of interesting characters (who are real people), and Vance does a good job talking about what is needed to begin to eliminate the poverty that so many are in.

I found this to be a very readable, informative, and, at times, entertaining book.