Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Book - 2015
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82-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. Russell, raised as a brother to Otto, has loved Etta from afar for 60 years. He insists on finding Etta, wherever she's gone. Leaving his farm will be the first act of defiance in his whole life.
Publisher: Toronto : Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Canada Books, Inc., ©2015
ISBN: 9780670067749
Branch Call Number: F HOO NVD
Characteristics: 305 pages ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Etta & Otto & Russell & James


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Jun 09, 2020

Some books should not be read in the audiobook format. This is one of them. Some publishers invest in their audio productions and have multiple readers or talented readers who are able to create distinct voices. This is not one of them. The reader used exactly the same voice and inflection for Otto, Etta, Russell, and the coyote. This was regardless of whether the speaker was 7 or 70 years old. There were hundreds of flashbacks in this book. None was demarcated by the audiobook, so given the fact that there was only one voice, it was difficult to determine the time frame and the identity of the speaker. That said, I believe I would have enjoyed the magical realism / whimsey of the book if I were not focusing on figuring out the setting, time frame, and speaker. I thought the talking coyote was a bit much and totally unnecessary. I am a huge fan of the Swedish author Frederik Backman who speaks with a similar voice. I am afraid my enjoyment of this book was ruined by the poor publishing effort by Simon and Schuster Digital. Kristi & Abby Tabby

CCPL_Carly Jan 09, 2020

With a hint of magic realism, this memorable debut is both tender and bittersweet. The writing style is lyrical and rhythmic, echoing Etta's own footsteps on her journey. The author captures her Canadian backdrop perfectly. Readers willing to suspend their disbelief will be rewarded with a quirky, but satisfyingly redemptive, novel.

Aug 25, 2019

This is a wonderful book, with an unexpected ending.

Apr 28, 2019

By the author of Our Homesick Songs.
This book seems sweet and tender, going into the past of the 83 year old protagonist as she wanders off on a journey from Saskatchewan to Halifax by foot. But the pace is super slow and I didn’t have the patience for the meandering style. The central conflict, if there is one, had not yet revealed itself by page 26. I stopped there.
Verdict: Slow, nostalgic story about 3 farm children and the dog, James. Maybe one to try again another day.

Mar 11, 2018

I read this book online in six parts, released each week by The Edmonton Public Library. It started out really interesting, but I felt it fell apart near the end. The timelines got confusing with all of the switching back and forth, and I felt the ending was very unsatisfying.

Aug 19, 2017

There is a softness to this book; as on a warm summer morning the petals of a flower slowly unfold for the viewer. If you have the patience and acceptance for the almost unimaginable oddities--an 82 year-old woman walking thousands of miles from Saskatchewan to the east coast and a "talking" coyote, you'll be introduced to unforgettable characters. I loved the writing; the reveal of character and plot through prose, letters and songs.
We are presented with a story of multiple journeys-- physical, emotional and spiritual. By story's end, I experienced great fondness for each character-- for both Etta and Otto, who at different times must wait and work for their loved one to return. For Russel, the trusted, treasured friend and even for James, the coyote-- stoic and dependable. It's a story of two soulmates but also of unrequited love. I found magic here.

VaughanPLDavidB Jul 26, 2017

In the tradition of Mrs Queen Takes the Train, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, yet another in the genre of "old people go walkabout", and I ask myself, why did I bother? I forced myself to listen to one of the seven audio discs, but not one second more. Consistent with much of the canon of Can Lit, whole thing seems grim and pointless. Half a star to the author for managing to get this published.

Apr 19, 2017

I liked it. A lot. It often brought tears to my eyes. Even though the lack of quotation marks drove me crazy.
The flash back stories were wonderful ways to round out the characters and build empathy.

I know so many people in their 60's,70's,80's and 90's who would dearly love to break away from the restraints (sometimes literally) and set out on a quest they always had to put off in order to be good parents or responsible citizens...only to find themselves locked up safely by their all knowing children the moment they start to misplace their car keys or action "strange" or unacceptable to modern society.

This book gave me the inspiration to do what I want to do now before it's too late. The older one gets the more appreciation there is for the fantasy of freedom for one final great adventure.

Yes, it was similar to Harold Fry and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I liked those books too!

Aug 23, 2016

A great story; a thoroughly engaging magical realism genre with charming characters and an unusual nonlinear writing style.

Mar 11, 2016

I cannot recall developing such fondness for fictional characters before. A poignant, simple, wonderful read.

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SPL_Robyn Mar 03, 2015

Meet Etta. She is 82 and has never seen the ocean so one day she decides to walk to Halifax, 3232 km away. She takes her best boots, and leaves a note for her husband, “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), Etta.”

Meet Otto, Etta’s husband. He still suffers (occasionally) from nightmares of WWII, and misses Etta terribly. He knows she doesn’t want him to follow her so he doesn’t, and nearly starves before he picks up one of the recipe cards Etta left for him and learns to cook their favourite things for himself. He doesn’t tell anyone (at first) that Etta has gone. Not even his best friend.

Meet Russell, Otto’s best friend since childhood. Brought up as Otto’s brother, Russell shared Otto’s chores even with a lame leg, shared his schooling (they went opposite days so someone could do chores at home), and everything else – except for WWII, and for Etta, their former teacher. Russell loves Etta too, and maybe she loved him back, but she married Otto. Russell sets out in his truck to track her and bring her home before she forgets them completely.

Meet James, Etta’s travelling companion and confidante. James finds Etta when her boots start to leak blood and goes with her to buy sneakers. He keeps her from forgetting who she is and keeps her warm at night, and she saves him by carrying him when he breaks his leg in a trap. James is a coyote.

Etta becomes something of a folk heroine as she walks, and the men who love her take their own journey in searching for her. The pace and mood of this novel is that of a light wind over prairie wheat - languid, thoughtful, and beautiful to behold.

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