CU Denver professor launches debut novel

Photo// Emily Ruskovich

Photo// Emily Ruskovich


It made no sense. Frightened, Ann went inside, grocery bags in her arms. In the dim light from the floor lamp, she saw that there were many holes cut into the knotty-pine walls, leading to the outside…Her heart raced. ‘Wade?’”

Excerpted from Idaho, this is one of many tense moments CU Denver Assistant Professor Emily Ruskovich composes with wizened expertise in her debut novel released on Jan. 3. Ruskovich teaches creative writing at CU Denver. In 2013, she landed a two-book contract with Random House, of which Idaho officially launches.

The critically acclaimed novel was one of The New York Times featured choices from “What You’ll Be Reading in 2017,” an annual list that anticipates the biggest releases of the upcoming year.

Idaho revolves around Ann and Wade, a married couple who build a home for themselves in Northern Idaho. When Wade starts losing his memory, Ann struggles to piece together his past and figure out what happened to his first family, including his children.

The mystery novel takes readers down a path of uncertainty and craze, with an ending that may drive some readers over the edge or left frustrated. Nevertheless, the novel holds truth and realism—something other fictitious novels can lack.

Ruskovich has received many positive reviews from acclaimed authors like Hannah Tinti of The Good Thief, and publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, who had high praise for Ruskovich’s writing style. “Ruskovich language is itself a consolation, as she subtly posits the troubling thought that only decency can save us,” The New York Times said.

Ruskovich, who’s an O’Henry winning author and was part of the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, has also been receiving a lot of fan mail, with one being her particular favorite.

“I received one fan letter that I found very moving,” Ruskovich said. “He told me what the thought happened to the missing child and he wrote a description of what he thinks her life is like.”

Ruskovich got the idea for her novel while hiking with her dad in Northern Idaho and collecting firewood. In the quiet and serene space, she wondered if something would happen in a place like that.

The writing process lasted five years, and as exhausting and challenging as it was, Ruskovich had a hard time letting the novel go.

“Even though I was excited, it was still very painful,” Ruskovich said. “It was like sending a child to college. It was a book that I could’ve written forever, which is strange, but it has infinite perspectives.”

On Feb. 16, Ruskovich visited the Tattered Cover on 16th Street to read an excerpt from her novel and do a Q&A for CU Denver students, staff, faculty, and the Denver community.

During the Q&A, Ruskovich explained that the house she grew up in was a safe place in an area that was dangerous in Northern Idaho. She also mentioned that Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” helped inspire some of the story.

“Meeting Alice Munro was one of the most intense experiences of my life. It didn’t last long, just a few minutes in front of her home in rural Ontario,” Ruskovich said. “But it meant a great deal to me. I will never forget it.”

Dilkush Khan
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