|Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper|
I whizzed through this book in the past week, mostly because I knew it was going to be discussed on Open Book on Sunday. I finished it on Saturday morning, then promptly forgot to listen to the programme. Which is a good example of how my week has been going.
Nonetheless, it was an interesting book and I'd wanted to review it anyway, so here goes.
Etta, aged 82, leaves a note for her husband Otto to let him know she's gone for a walk. She plans to walk across Canada to the ocean, thousands of miles away. (So far, so 100 year old man.., which I found that a lot of the ideas reminded me of. I don't know that this worked in Hooper's favour as that was a book which I really struggled to enjoy.)
So, Otto is left on his own to cope with cooking for himself and to be honest, he takes it rather well. He doesn't seem to be concerned for Etta and just takes things in his stride. On the other hand, neighbouring farmer Russell wants to follow Etta, to track her down and bring her home.
Etta is joined on her journey by a coyote named James, who keeps her company and protects her. Or is perhaps a figment of her imagination. Here's where the lines between reality and imagination get seriously blurred, even if we'd been accepting everything thus far as real.
The book flicks between past and present, rewarding the reader with nuggets of information about Otto's childhood, growing up with a large farming family and Russell next door, being brought up by his aunt and uncle, who made himself almost part of the Vogel family.
Flashbacks to Etta teaching at the school, Otto going to war and Russell being left behind to comfort a heartbroken Etta, are interspersed with Etta's journey and Otto's life back home. How much of any of it is reality, the reader can't be sure.
The one thing which really irritated me was that the author writes without the need for speech marks, but if you can look past that, it's not a bad read.