Etta and Otto and Russell and James: A Novel (Hardcover)
ETTA AND OTTO AND RUSSELL AND JAMES by Emma Hooper - 83-year-old Etta leaves a note for her husband Otto, telling him that she has decided to walk 3200 miles to the Atlantic Ocean from their farm in Gopherlands, Saskatchewan, in a journey mirroring one Otto took sixty years earlier to fight in WWII. Life-long friend Russell follows in Etta’s footsteps, unable to wait for her as Otto does. And along the way, Etta meets James. Hooper manages to create not one but three intensely realistic and multi-faceted characters, portraying them not just during the highs of their youth, but even more deeply following them into the frightening and confusing territory of old age, failing health, and dementia. With this novel, Emma Hooper takes her place in the literary world. What Marilynne Robinson is to Iowa, Emma Hooper is to Saskatchewan. ~ Nancy— From Nancy's Book Picks
February 2015 Indie Next List
“Eighty-three-year-old Etta Vogel quietly sets out one day to walk 3,200 kilometers to the coast of Canada for her first view of the ocean. As Etta travels, author Hooper gently and poignantly reveals a lifetime of morally charged events that shaped Etta as well as her husband, Otto, and her lifelong friend, Russell. This is a beautiful and sometimes hauntingly stark portrait of three WWII-generation lives, sprinkled with the wise counsel of a loyal coyote named James. I loved it!”
— Susan Tyler, The Book Bin, Onley, VA
A gorgeous literary debut about unlikely heroes, lifelong promises, and last great adventures.
The letter began, in blue ink,
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.
Otto finds the note left by his wife in the kitchen of their farmhouse in windswept Saskatchewan. Eighty-three-year-old Etta will be walking 3,200 kilometers to see the ocean, but somehow, Otto understands. He took his own journey once before, to fight in a faraway land.
With Etta gone, Otto struggles with his demons of war, while their friend Russell initially pursues the woman he has loved from afar.
And James—well, James you have to meet on the page.
Moving from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty, burnt past of hunger, war, and passion, from trying to remember to trying to forget, Etta and Otto and Russell and James is an astounding literary debut about friendship and love, hope and honor, and the romance of last—great—adventures.
About the Author
Raised in Alberta, Canada, Emma Hooper brought her love of music and literature to the UK, where she received a doctorate in Musico-Literary studies at the University of East-Anglia and currently lectures at Bath Spa University. A musician, Emma performs as the solo artist Waitress for the Bees and plays with a number of bands. She lives in Bath, UK, but goes home to Canada to cross-country ski whenever she can. She is the author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James and Our Homesick Songs.
“Etta and Otto and Russell and James is incredibly moving, beautifully written and luminous with wisdom. It is a book that restores one's faith in life even as it deepens its mystery. Wonderful!” —Chris Cleave, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Little Bee
“[A] sweet, disarming story of lasting love… Hooper’s steady hand creates the perfect setup for the unexpected.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Quirky, offbeat... Modern life is full of people spouting rubbish about spurious emotional and spiritual ‘journeys.’ Etta’s trek as she comes to the end of her life and reckons with the past, has, in contrast, a real and worthwhile dignity to it.”
—The Financial Times
“In this haunting debut, set in a starkly beautiful landscape, Hooper delineates the stories of Etta and the men she loved (Otto and Russell) as they intertwine through youth and wartime and into old age. It’s a lovely book you’ll want to linger over.”
“Heartfelt… In simple, graceful prose, Hooper has woven a tale of deep longing, for reinvention and self-discovery, as well as for the past and for love and for the boundless unknown.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Hooper’s] crisp, unadorned prose beautifully captures her characters' sentiments, and conveys with compassion but also a degree of distance their experiences of love and pain, longing and loss… this novel pulsates with an energy that can best be described as raw but also highly restrained. “
“Hooper has conjured a character who is a gift… As the lines blur between Etta’s and Otto’s memories, and even between their physical bodies, readers emerge with a deeper appreciation for life and for its suffering against its backdrop of majesty.”
—Dallas Morning News
“A bit like a fairy tale, Etta and Otto and Russell and James is whimsical, even magical. A bit like the Canadian prairie, it is spare, yet beautiful.”
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“A poetic, poignant tale.”
“Fictional journeys toward enlightenment and self-discovery fill miles of book shelves, but few are as freshly told as the road trip traced in Etta and Otto and Russell and James…It’s filled with magical realism, whimsy and the idea that you’re never too old to take risks.”
“Hooper’s debut is a novel of memory and longing and desires too long denied…To a Cormac McCarthy–like narrative—sans quotation marks, featuring crisp, concise conversations—Hooper adds magical realism…. The book ends with sheer poetry…A masterful near homage to Pilgrim’s Progress: souls redeemed through struggle.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Hooper’s spare, evocative prose dips in and out of reality and travels between past and present creating what Etta tells Otto is “just a long loop.” This is a quietly powerful story whose dreamlike quality lingers long after the last page is turned."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Hooper, with great insight, explores the interactions and connections between spouses and friends—the rivalries, the camaraderie, the joys and tragedies—and reveals the extraordinary lengths to which people will go in the name of love."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Drawing on wisdom and whimsy of astonishing grace and maturity, Hooper has written an irresistibly enchanting debut novel that explores mysteries of love old and new, the loyalty of animals and dependency of humans, the horrors of war and perils of loneliness, and the tenacity of time and fragility of memory."
—Booklist (starred review)
“A delicate hymn to the natural landscape and an elegy to a dwindling generation.”
—The New Yorker