American debut novelist wins €100,000 Dublin Literary Award

American debut novelist wins €100,000 Dublin Literary Award

American author Emily Ruskovich has won the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award for her debut novel Idaho (Chatto & Windus).

Ruskovich, who is the fourth American author to win the €100,000 (£88,000) prize in its 24-year history, was selected as the winner from 141 entries, all nominated by libraries across the world.

Ruskovich, who lives in Idaho City, said: “I cannot express how grateful I am to be the recipient of this astonishingly generous award. It is difficult to know how to respond to the magnitude of this kindness that has been so suddenly bestowed upon me. I feel shocked. I feel humbled. I feel overwhelmed with the enormity of my gratitude. I am especially honoured because of the admiration that I feel for the other finalists, authors from all over the world who are all doing such crucial and beautiful work. Seeing my name beside theirs when the shortlist was announced—that alone was one of the greatest honours of my career.”

The public library in Brugge, Belgium that nominated Idaho, said the “special debut novel is a real gem” and praised its atmosphere and structure. The novel follows a young family as their lives are changed forever on one hot August day. As parents Jenny and Wade collect birch wood with their two daughters June and May, aged nine and six, "something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction", reads the synopsis. 

Irish author Éilís Ní Dhuibhne joined this year’s judging panel alongside Ge Yan, Evie Wyld, Martin Middeke and Hans-Christian Oeser. The non-voting chair was judge Eugene Sullivan.

Dhuibhne said: “At the heart of Emily Ruskovich’s haunting debut novel is the inexplicable. A young couple, Jenny and Wade, move from the prairies to the utter loneliness and unexpected isolation of the Northern Idaho mountains where they carelessly bought a piece of wooded land on a steep mountainside. As yet, they know nothing about the winter that will entrap them:  masses of snow, no plow, no neighbours, the next settlement eight miles away. This is not an idyll. Years go by. They build a house with their own hands; two children are born – May and June. Then, all of a sudden, in a brutal flash, with no warning, their happiness and their love are destroyed forever.”

Idaho, which was published by Random House in the US, was chosen from a shortlist of 10 novels from France, Ireland, Pakistan, the UK and the USA. Copies of the winning novel, the shortlisted books and the full list of novels nominated for the 2019 award are available to borrow from Dublin Public libraries.

The award, organised and sponsored by Dublin City Council, is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English.

Speaking at the award ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House last night, newly elected Lord Mayor & Patron of the Award, Paul Mc Auliffe, said: “The International Dublin Literary Award is a great Dublin success and an even greater international success, our thanks go to all who are involved in making the Award work – writers, translators, publishers, librarians, and the administrative staff of the City Council.”