Etta and Otto and Russell and James: By Emma Hooper
Otto is an old man now. He gets up early one morning in his windswept Saskatchewan farm to discover a note from his wife, Etta. In the note she explains that she has never seen the ocean so is on her way there.
She hasn’t taken the truck, she explains, she’ll walk. The ocean is over three thousand kilometres away …and Etta is eighty three years old.
She writes that she’ll try to remember to come back. That’s the problem these days; Etta’s memory.
On her way, she briefly meets their neighbour, Russell. Etta and Otto have a long history which is revealed throughout the book. And the next time we meet Otto, in the following chapter, he is six years old. One of so many siblings they had to be numbered, he is working on his parents’ farm.
As the book unfolds we learn about how Otto met Russell and how they came across Etta. We discover their early lives when Russell wasn’t required to fight in the war; he had a damaged leg from a childhood accident. Otto went though…
But after leaving the farm, Etta walks. She has left her husband a note and a pile of recipe cards. She didn’t want him to starve. Otto is tempted to go and look for his wife but strangely, he understands. Russell though, once he belatedly discovers that the fact that he hasn’t seen Etta for a while is not because she has just been out visiting, is determined to find her.
Will Etta survive her walk? After all, she has a companion now. James. What secrets are held in their younger lives?
This is a delightful book and beautifully written. It spans the decades effortlessly and it’s easy for the reader to get drawn into these fascinating lives and the way they intertwine.
This is the first book by Emma Hooper, a Canadian who now lives in the UK. I’m very much looking forward to reading her future work.
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