Books > Violent wilderness

07 June 2017 | by Markie Robson-Scott

Violent wilderness


Emily Ruskovich
(Chatto & Windus, 320 pp, £14.99)
Tablet bookshop price £13.50 • tel 01420 592974

The mountain in Emily Ruskovich’s ­wonderful debut novel is as significant as the people that live on it. The fictional Mount Iris, near Ponderosa in Idaho, almost defeats Wade and Jenny – prairie people who didn’t realise that snow ploughs wouldn’t be able to get through in winter. They build their house at its peak, and you feel the mountain itself may be partly responsible for the monstrous killing that happens nine years later.

The novel circles around an unfathomable, profoundly shocking question: why did Jenny bring down a hatchet on May, her beloved six-year-old daughter? There are no clear answers. Wade comes closest when, in a rare moment of expansiveness, he tells his second wife Ann (Jenny is in prison) that there is nothing to understand: “It wasn’t a thing she did on purpose. It was a thing that happened. To her and by her, and that’s it.”


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