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[Review] Etta and Otto and Russel and James – Emma Hooper

von Franzi S.
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Headerbild: Etta and Otto and Russell and James – Emma Hooper (c) Fig Tree

Etta lives in the farmlands of Saskatchewan with her husband Otto. Her greatest unfulfilled dream is to see the sea. At the age of eighty-two, she gets up very early, takes some chocolate, a rifle and her best boots and begins to walk the 2,000 miles to the water.

But she’s starting to forget things, while Otto remembers everything. And even Russell, their neighbour, remembers, but in a different way. And he still loves Etta. As much as he did before she married Otto, fifty years ago.

„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)


(Page 1)

It is very difficult for me to find the right words and review this book. But I can say, that I think it was magical.

With only bare necessities in her bag, Etta starts to walk to the see. Even though she occasionally suffers from memory loss. Otto waits patiently for her and is confident, that Etta will succeed. But Russell, a very good friend and neighbour, fears that Etta will get lost.

The book is a mixture of Etta and her walk, flashbacks to their childhood, to the beginning of Etta’s and Otto’s and Russell’s love and to the time, Etta had to stay behind, while others went to war. And of letters and recipes, passages about Otto, about Russell and of course Etta, with the coyote James. It is not just a boring walk through canada, but a colorful story and I never knew if what’s just happening is real or imagined.

I loved the vulnerability of the characters and the bond between them all, because they known each other for more than fifty years and share their past, dreams and memories. It is not a book about a walk but about desires, unfulfilled wishes, longing, memories, happiness and love.

I still cannot decided if I like the end or not. It is very open and left to the reader’s interpretation. And mine is, well, sad, so sad and I wish I could read a better, happy ending. And I still cannot decide, if Etta really went for that walk or if it is only a dream. A dream in the last days of her life, while she lays unconscious in a hospital bed. That’s what I love most about Etta and Otto and Russell and James. That it offers so much room for my own interpretation and speculations. It’s a book you cannot take to seriously. I mean, of course it is ridiculous that an 82 year old woman starts walking 2,000 miles without prober sleep or much to eat and drink, with a coyote on her side. It is a book which gives the reader the possibility to look beyond the bare words into the hearts of the characters.

I think Emma Hooper wrote a magical book. I really love her writing and that the story is so unreal but so touching. That it gave me the possibility to have my own interpretations and speculations. A book about desires, unfulfilled dreams, love and longing, about the past and memories and live itself. A book which gave me the possibility to look beyond bare words and which entertained me. But I really hate the ending. It so open and my own head really has some bad thoughts about what happened. That’s why I give four out of five hearts. It was a quick and easy read but also one that will stay in my heart and memory for a long time.


Emma Hooper, musician and writer, is currently a research lecturer at Bath Spa University, in the Commercial Music Department. She lives in the UK but goes home to Canada as often she can afford. As an author, she has publishes short stories, nonfiction pieces, poetry and libretti, as well as a number of academic papers.

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