Idaho Fiction

Vintage postcard

Some places lend their characteristics to fiction a little easier than others. If I gave you the name of a state, you may be able to name two or three works of fiction that are set there (Quick: Georgia). Idaho is slowly coming into its own in terms of sense of place. For many years, we’ve often been overshadowed by some of the flashier Western states (I’m looking at you Montana), but I think our turn in the spotlight is just beginning.

Here are a few titles, some written by Idaho authors, but all with a great sense of their Idaho settings. Try a few and see if you can get an idea of what it means to live and breathe in this state (and see if you can recognize familiar places!).

As usual, the annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus and those with an * are highly recommended by yours truly.

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Across Open Ground by Heather Parkinson

  • As World War I draws closer, seventeen-year-old novice sheep herder Walter Pascoe and his lover, trapper Trina Ivy, must face personal trials and losses as Walter is drafted into the military and sent abroad to fight.

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All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki*

  • Returning home to the Idaho potato farm she fled twenty-five years earlier, Yumi struggles with her father’s terminal illness, her mother’s Alzheimer’s, her former best friend, and a former lover who once offended the town.

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Blackbelly by Heather Sharfeddin

  • Sharfeddin weaves elements of suspense and the supernatural through this accomplished western about an ornery loner of a sheep rancher, Chas McPherson, who hires a home health-care nurse, Mattie Holden, to care for his dying father, a once powerful, wrathful preacher now incapacitated by Parkinson’s.

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The Blight Way by Patrick McManus

  • Idaho sheriff Bo Tully’s hopes about a rekindled romance with his high-school sweetheart are challenged by his father’s upcoming seventy-fifth birthday celebration and a ranch murder involving numerous possible suspects.

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Blue Heaven by C.J. Box*

  • A twelve-year-old girl and her younger brother go on the run in the woods of North Idaho, pursued by four men they have just watched commit murder–four men who know exactly who William and Annie are, and who know exactly where their desperate mother is waiting for news of her children’s fate.

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Cover of Night by Linda Howard

  • The owner of a struggling B&B in a picturesque Idaho town, Cate Nightingale, a young widow and mother, is forced to turn for help to her mysterious handyman, Calvin Harris, when a trio of vicious thugs threatens her and the entire town.

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A Country Called Home by Kim Barnes

  • Driven by youthful idealism, Thomas Deracotte and his pregnant wife, Helen, leave upper-crust Connecticut for a Utopian adventure in the Idaho wilderness, purchasing a dilapidated local farm and optimistically setting up housekeeping with the help of a local boy.

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Deep Creek by Dana Hand*

  • Investigating the discovery of forty murdered Chinese gold miners in a 19th-century Idaho territory lake, lawman Joe Vincent teams up with an ambitious company researcher and a metis mountain guide to track the killers across the Pacific Northwest.

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Faraway Places by Tom Spanbauer*

  • A boy on an isolated rural Idaho farm during the 1950s tells about a murder.

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Five Skies by Ron Carlson*

  • Working together on a summer construction project high in the Rocky Mountains, drifter Arthur Key, shiftless Ronnie Panelli, and foreman Darwin Gallegos reveal details about their pasts and beliefs in cautious and profound ways.

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Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

  • Ruth, a young girl struggling to overcome haunting family memories in a town which will not ler her forget, gradually grows close to Sylvie, the sister of her dead mother.

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Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre

  • Follows a year in the lives of a Cold War-era trailer community in Idaho, where single moms Lina and Connie struggle with their sons’ exploits, their economic disadvantages, and the edicts of faith.

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Leaving Normal by Stef Ann Holm

  • Divorced and the mother of a college-bound daughter, Natalie is enjoying dating her neighbor, but they disagree over the possibility of having more children, until Natalie’s daughter comes home with a surprise addition that may change their lives forever.

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Print the Legend by Craig McDonald

  • Questioning the widow of the late Ernest Hemingway, crime novelist Hector Lassiter fears that a surviving Hemingway manuscript may compromise his own reputation; while Professor Richard Paulson harbors suspicions that the author’s daughter murdered him.

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Season of the Snake by Claire Davis

  • Remarrying years after the death of her first husband, scientist Nance challenges her personal demons by tracking rattlesnakes in Idaho, unaware of factors from her new husband’s past that challenge her relationship with her younger sister.

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The Sheep Queen by Thomas Savage

  • Chronicles five generations of an American sheep-ranching dynasty, focusing on the beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, who threatens the family’s unity and her own identity, and details the lives of Elizabeth’s two husbands and her son.

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Then Came the Evening by Brian Hart

  • Eighteen years after being sent to prison for a violent crime, Vietnam veteran Bandy Dorner is finally released and is soon visited by the wife who cheated on him and his teenage son, prompting the three of them to explore whether they belong together as a family.

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