Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Emma Hooper. Simon & Schuster, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5567-0
Hooper’s arresting debut novel, with its spare, evocative prose, seamlessly interweaves accounts of the present-day lives of its eponymous main characters with the stories of their pasts and how they first connected with each other. The book starts with a note that Etta leaves for her husband: “Otto, 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.” Thus begins elderly Etta’s journey from Saskatchewan to the coast, and the same ocean that once took her dear husband overseas to fight in WWII. She is armed with minor provisions, some clothes, and a sheet of paper with names on it, starting with “You: Etta Gloria Kinnick of Deerdale farm. 83 years old in August.” Along the way, Etta meets a coyote she names James; she considers him her friend and they have many long conversations as they travel together. As Etta walks thousands of miles to her destination, three touching stories unfold: those of Otto, from a family of 14 brothers and sisters; Russell, the abandoned boy who lived next door to Otto and becomes a de facto part of his family; and Etta, who lost her sister at a young age. 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. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/22/2014
Release date: 01/20/2015
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-670-06774-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-14-319000-4
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4767-5570-0
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-4767-5568-7
Downloadable Audio - 320 pages - 978-1-4423-8265-7
Hardcover - 465 pages - 978-1-4104-7707-1
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