Etta and Otto and Russell and James

I’m terribly behind on my reading updates, mostly because I was on vacation and that meant a lot of reading and no computer, so here we are. But I read some lovely things over the course of the two weeks and I want to make sure I note them, for myself if no one else. The first was Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper, a lovely novel about both coming of age and the end of life.

Set in the prairies of Canada, Etta, when she is an old woman, decides to walk to the ocean. She takes the long way, preferring to walk towards the Atlantic rather than the Pacific, which would be closer. She sets out early, leaving her husband recipes to their favorite things so he can take care of himself. She walks across fields, then gets into forests, then into the lake country and walks on.

But the book is about more than that journey because interspersed with the story of Etta’s walk is the story of Etta and Otto and Russell growing up in the Prairies and dealing with World War II and the drastic changes it brings to their lives. Much like the review I heard of this book, I won’t talk about who James is, because I think that’s best left discovered by the reader.

Hooper tells a lovely story of life, of looking back on the life one lived, but also of starting out in life and how the choices made can change everything. She describes the land and the Prairies lovingly and it made me think of my upbringing in the upper Midwest, as they aren’t too different. This was not an earth shattering book, but it was a really great story to get lost in as we began our vacation.

I only have a few highlights, I read the kindle version of the book, generously loaned to me by my local library.

We’re all scared, most of the time. Life would be lifeless if we weren’t. Be scared, and then jump into that fear. Again and again. Just remember to hold on to yourself while you do it. (loc 1787)

If we’re doing we’re living and if we’re living we’re winning, right? (loc 2929)

We have good days and bad days. You told me, once, to just remember to breathe. As long as you can do that, you’re doing something Good, you said. Getting rid of the old, and letting in the new. And, therefore, moving forward. Making progress. That’s all you have to do to move forward, sometimes, you said, just breathe. (loc 3309)