Monday, February 2, 2015
REVIEW: ETTA AND OTTO AND RUSSELL AND JAMES
If you knew that a novel involved an 82 year old Saskatchewan farm woman who intends to walk to Halifax in her boots, equipped with a rifle and chocolate, would you be inclined to pick it up? Further, if you knew that a talking coyote was a companion for her journey, how would this influence your decision to engage? Perhaps you would say no, which would be a mistake.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James's storyline weaves between Etta’s present journey and her past as a school teacher when she first meets Otto, once her student, before he goes to war. The reader gains insight into the sparse times in the west during the late 1930s -- how war recruitment, with the promise of excitement while doing one’s patriotic duty, decimated towns as young men left for the so-called overseas adventure. How the war impacted Otto’s return as well as family friend Russell who didn’t enlist, are woven into this story of love, pursuing important goals and having faith in self and others.
Hooper has a sensitive touch in describing Otto, who can’t understand why his wife wants to make this journey. He receives occasional messages from Etta and becomes obsessed with making papier-mâché animals that stand in his front yard, and join him while he waits.
Best friend Russell, a perennial deer stalker, is prompted by Ella’s journey to finally go beyond the perimeter of his own property and head north to track down his beloved deer.
Emma Hooper’s colourful yet minimalist touch places you directly in Etta's boots, yet what is left unsaid is almost richer than the offered account. This gives the reader a wide canvas for the delicate storylines to be personally interpreted and embraced.
Suffice it to say that I was sad when I finished this book. It has high entertainment value. Congratulations to Hooper for her first novel. I hope she continues to create other imaginary worlds in which we can immerse ourselves.
Jennifer Mackie has lived in Guelph for over 40 years, is a business consultant with never enough hobby time for reading, sports, online puzzles and quilting. She reads for entertainment and to discover the world of ‘curious’. Along with finding value in the story, she enjoys experiencing different writer’s styles and methods for how they entice one into their made up worlds.