Thursday, June 25, 2015

Etta And Otto And Russell And James by Emma Hooper

Otto gets up one morning to find a note on the kitchen table from his eighty-three year old wife, Etta.  She has decided to go see the ocean before it's too late.  She is leaving him the truck and walking.  The only issue Otto can see is that by his calculations it's over 3,200 kilometers to the ocean.

Etta walks every day and camps every night.  Otto doesn't pursue her although the neighbor, Russell, who is Otto's best friend, comes and tries to talk her into returning.  Instead Otto stays home, writes her letters as he did during the war, and plans what they will do when Etta returns.

The novel moves back and forth between stories of Etta and Otto's childhoods, how they met and how they ended up together.  Russell was always in Otto's life, and when Etta came into his life, in hers also.  Etta and Otto were separated by the war and the reader learns what this means through their letters to each other.

As Etta walks, she becomes famous for her drive and determination.  She is joined by a coyote she names James who is her only companion.  As she goes through towns and villages, people come up to her, wanting only to touch her or have her take their keepsake to the ocean.  She moves on, never stopping, never hesitating.

Emma Hooper has written a beautiful tribute to what it means to belong with another individual.  We each have a song to sing in our lives and when someone else chooses to sing along with us, we are comforted and made strong.  She explores the issues of delayed gratification, of hidden talents and of the search for one's life meaning.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

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