Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

A Novel

Book - 2015
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Embarking on a more than 3,000-kilometer walking journey from rural Canada to the East coast so that she can see the ocean for the first time in her life, an octogenarian woman has experiences that blur her perspectives between illusion, memory and reality.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015
Characteristics: 305 pages ; 22 cm
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781476755670


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Mar 11, 2018

I read this book online in six parts, released each week by The Edmonton Public Library. It started out really interesting, but I felt it fell apart near the end. The timelines got confusing with all of the switching back and forth, and I felt the ending was very unsatisfying.

Aug 19, 2017

There is a softness to this book; as on a warm summer morning the petals of a flower slowly unfold for the viewer. If you have the patience and acceptance for the almost unimaginable oddities--an 82 year-old woman walking thousands of miles from Saskatchewan to the east coast and a "talking" coyote, you'll be introduced to unforgettable characters. I loved the writing; the reveal of character and plot through prose, letters and songs.
We are presented with a story of multiple journeys-- physical, emotional and spiritual. By story's end, I experienced great fondness for each character-- for both Etta and Otto, who at different times must wait and work for their loved one to return. For Russel, the trusted, treasured friend and even for James, the coyote-- stoic and dependable. It's a story of two soulmates but also of unrequited love. I found magic here.

VaughanPLDavidB Jul 26, 2017

In the tradition of Mrs Queen Takes the Train, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, yet another in the genre of "old people go walkabout", and I ask myself, why did I bother? I forced myself to listen to one of the seven audio discs, but not one second more. Consistent with much of the canon of Can Lit, whole thing seems grim and pointless. Half a star to the author for managing to get this published.

Apr 19, 2017

I liked it. A lot. It often brought tears to my eyes. Even though the lack of quotation marks drove me crazy.
The flash back stories were wonderful ways to round out the characters and build empathy.

I know so many people in their 60's,70's,80's and 90's who would dearly love to break away from the restraints (sometimes literally) and set out on a quest they always had to put off in order to be good parents or responsible citizens...only to find themselves locked up safely by their all knowing children the moment they start to misplace their car keys or action "strange" or unacceptable to modern society.

This book gave me the inspiration to do what I want to do now before it's too late. The older one gets the more appreciation there is for the fantasy of freedom for one final great adventure.

Yes, it was similar to Harold Fry and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I liked those books too!

bookloverjane Aug 23, 2016

A great story; a thoroughly engaging magical realism genre with charming characters and an unusual nonlinear writing style.

Mar 11, 2016

I cannot recall developing such fondness for fictional characters before. A poignant, simple, wonderful read.

Feb 20, 2016

I think I would've enjoyed this book more if I hadn't already read 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,' and also 'The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window and Disappeared.' It was interesting, and an easy read... but the story of an elderly person going on an unbelievably long walk/adventure is no longer a novel plot line for me.

Feb 16, 2016

This is such an intriguing book. It took a couple of chapters to get used to Hooper's style, but I couldn't put it down once I did. I'd recommend it. It is a beautiful book and storyline.

Feb 15, 2016

Unfortunately I found this book disappointing. The story line was good, but too mixed up and at times hard to follow.

Feb 07, 2016

Such a strange book with an odd bunch of main characters. I gave it four stars because I found the story intriguing and stylistically different than anything I have read in quite some time. Enchanting might be the best way to describe this story.

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SPL_Robyn Mar 03, 2015

Meet Etta. She is 82 and has never seen the ocean so one day she decides to walk to Halifax, 3232 km away. She takes her best boots, and leaves a note for her husband, “I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. Don’t worry. I’ve left you the truck. I can walk. I will try to remember to come back. Yours (always), Etta.”

Meet Otto, Etta’s husband. He still suffers (occasionally) from nightmares of WWII, and misses Etta terribly. He knows she doesn’t want him to follow her so he doesn’t, and nearly starves before he picks up one of the recipe cards Etta left for him and learns to cook their favourite things for himself. He doesn’t tell anyone (at first) that Etta has gone. Not even his best friend.

Meet Russell, Otto’s best friend since childhood. Brought up as Otto’s brother, Russell shared Otto’s chores even with a lame leg, shared his schooling (they went opposite days so someone could do chores at home), and everything else – except for WWII, and for Etta, their former teacher. Russell loves Etta too, and maybe she loved him back, but she married Otto. Russell sets out in his truck to track her and bring her home before she forgets them completely.

Meet James, Etta’s travelling companion and confidante. James finds Etta when her boots start to leak blood and goes with her to buy sneakers. He keeps her from forgetting who she is and keeps her warm at night, and she saves him by carrying him when he breaks his leg in a trap. James is a coyote.

Etta becomes something of a folk heroine as she walks, and the men who love her take their own journey in searching for her. The pace and mood of this novel is that of a light wind over prairie wheat - languid, thoughtful, and beautiful to behold.


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