Finalist for the 2017 Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors
A bestselling debut that has captured readers' imaginations with a story of an elderly woman's last great adventure
Eighty-two-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. So, early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 3,232 kilometres from Saskatchewan to Halifax. Her husband, Otto, wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. I will try to remember to come back, Etta writes to him. Otto has seen the ocean, having crossed the Atlantic years ago to fight in a faraway war. He understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in, and Otto struggles to keep them at bay. Russell has spent his whole life trying to keep up with Otto and loving Etta from afar. He insists on finding Etta, wherever she's gone. Leaving his own farm will be the first act of defiance in his life.
As Etta walks farther toward the ocean, accompanied by a coyote named James, her past and present blur. Rocking back and forth with the pull of the waves, Etta and Otto and Russell and James moves from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty burnt past of hunger, war, passion, and hope; from trying to remember to trying to forget.
Raised in Alberta, EMMA HOOPER brought her love of music and literature to the U.K., where she received a doctorate in musico-literary studies at the University of East Anglia, and currently lectures at Bath Spa University. She comes home to Canada to cross-country ski whenever she can.
Winner of the 2017 Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors
"Hooper is a surprising and imaginative writer... [An] evocative read that brings a fresh lens to traditional themes of love, war and ultimately, taking the journey of a lifetime." --Maclean's
"A celebration of the power of words--and of imagination." --Toronto Star
"A magical, big-hearted book." --Elle
“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
“The pages do turn quickly in this book...in Etta and Otto and Russell and James — a first novel by Emma Hooper — you're very interested in the characters. And you want to find out more about them. So as you turn the pages, you delve deeper into their hopes and where they are at the moment in their life. So it's a much different page-turner in a sense, but this is a lovely, lovely book.” —Nancy Pearl, NPR's "Morning Edition"
“[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.” —People
“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. “—Chicago Tribune
“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.”—US Weekly
“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)