Etta and Otto and Russell and James Hardcover – Jan 13 2015
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“Magical... such wonderfully assured storytelling: it's been a very long time since a book has taken me by the hand - and the heart - as this one has.” —Sarah Winman, international bestselling author of When God Was a Rabbit
“A fan of Audrey Niffenegger and Alice Munro, Hooper's sense of playfulness comes across in the book's gentle magical realism.” —The Observer (UK)
“Charming, sweet...there is a singing simplicity that cuts through to the heart of things...fresh and touching.” —Sunday Times (UK)
“[A] delightful debut novel.” —Mail on Sunday (UK)
“Beautifully written...a powerfully moving account.” —Sunday Express (UK)
“Canadian Emma Hooper is sure to be 2015's face of literary quirk.” —Grazia (UK)
“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
“Debut novelist Hooper’s spare, evocative prose dips in and out of reality and travels between past and present…This is a quietly powerful story whose dreamlike quality lingers long after the last page is turned.” - Library Journal Starred Review
“Tenderhearted and enchanting, Etta and Otto and Russell and James takes us on an incredible cross-country journey—from dusty land to stormy sea, from small moments of sweetness to grand gestures of love.” - Marjorie Celona, Giller Prize nominated author of Y
“Emma Hooper has performed something of a miracle here, breathing new life into the venerable tradition of the prairie novel. Her world is familiar but transformed with lightness, wit, and generosity. Her characters are young and old at the same time, they are dreamers and practical people, they are your neighbours and they are magical beings you could never meet. When I finished the book I applauded.” - Thomas Wharton, winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book
"Etta and Otto and Russell And James by Emma Hooper is incredibly 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, New York Times Bestselling Author of Little Bee
“Etta and Otto and Russell and James is an extraordinary, imaginative story. As delicate and wondrous as a heartbeat.” - Shandi Mitchell, award-winning author of Under This Unbroken Sky
"In this haunting debut, set in a starkly beautiful landscape, Hooper delineates the stories of Etta and the men she loved ... as they intertwine through youth and wartime into old age. It's a lovely book you'll want to linger over." - People
“A magical, big-hearted book. . . If Wes Anderson's stylized dream worlds make you happy, you need a copy of Etta and Otto and Russell and James.” - Elle
“Hooper is a surprising and imaginative writer. . . The novel is a satisfying, evocative read that brings a fresh lens to traditional themes of love, war and, ultimately, taking the journey of a lifetime.” - Macleans
“A celebration of the power of words — and of imagination.” - Toronto Star
Hooper’s debut is a novel of memory and longing and desires too long denied. On Saskatchewan’s Great Plains grew 15 Vogel children. When Otto Vogel was still a child, half-orphaned Russell joined the brood. The Great Depression burned on, crops failed, and schooling was casual. One of the teachers was Etta, no older than Otto and Russell. World War II came. Otto left. Russell, broken leg improperly mended, could not. As Hooper’s shifting narrative opens, now-83-year-old Etta awakens, intending to walk to Canada’s east coast, leaving a brief note for her husband, Otto. She carries a bit of food, a rifle, and a note of her identity and home. To a Cormac McCarthy–like narrative—sans quotation marks, featuring crisp, concise conversations—Hooper adds magical realism: Etta’s joined by a talking coyote she names James, who serves as guide and sounding board. With Etta absent, Otto begins baking from her recipes, his companion a guinea pig, always silent. Soon Otto becomes obsessed with constructing a menagerie of papier-mâché wildlife. Russell, shy lifelong bachelor and Etta’s wartime lover, follows her, finds her, only to hear her urge him to seek his own quest "because you want to and you’re allowed to and you can. You could have if you wanted to enough"—the novel's thematic heart. Russell disappears into flashbacks. Hooper reveals more of Etta and Otto in letters exchanged during World War II, where Otto by turns is terrified, sickened and enthralled. Otto marries Etta on return, a less than perfect union shadowed by damaged Otto striking out at Etta. With beautifully crafted descriptions—derelict farm machinery as "gently stagnant machines"—Hooper immerses herself in characters, each shaped by the Depression. The book ends with sheer poetry, stunning and powerful, multiple short chapters where identities and dreams, longings and memories shift and cling to one character and then another within the "long loop of existence." A masterful near homage to Pilgrim’s Progress: souls redeemed through struggle. - Kirkus Review
“A bright new star of literature has been born.” - The Times
About the Author
Raised in Alberta, Canada, Emma Hooper brought her love of music and literature to the UK, where she received a doctorate in Musico-Literary studies at the University of East-Anglia and currently lectures at Bath Spa University. A musician, Emma performs as the solo artist Waitress for the Bees, and was awarded a Finnish Cultural Knighthood. She also performs with the Stringbeans Quartet and has toured with Peter Gabriel and Toni Braxton. She lives in Bath, UK, but goes home to Canada to cross-country ski whenever she can.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I don't expect every novel to have a neat ending, like a brain-candy murder mystery, but the mind-bending came on, to me, awfully quickly at the end and just didn't seem to fit with the pace of the book to that point.
Hooper tells us the story of her journey along with some of the history of their lives and interesting back stories about each of them. Much of it is kind of mystical and magical, like the wolf who begins to follow her along the way. There are many times that I wasn't sure how much was her dementia or just fantasy or spiritual parts of the story, but the way they were all woven in, it didn't cause me any concern. The story just flowed and all of these details just belonged. It was a different sort of novel, but it kept me engaged and I was sorry to see it end.
Most recent customer reviews
Quite possibly the worst book I've ever read.... And I've read a lot!!Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
well written story of never ending love somewhat a fantasy..Published 4 months ago by Angie Darling
Heart-breakingly beautiful. Stays with me. I highly recommend it.Published 6 months ago by Kathryn Cooper
excellent service, arrived on time and was a good read. Maybe the author is planning a sequel because it doesn't end well.Published 9 months ago by Sunny Sue
Not my type of novel, I kept wanting to stop reading it but kept up hoping it would get better. It didn't.Published 9 months ago by Valcan
I found this story quite unbelievable. It seemed like a poorly conceived copycat of the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The coyote device seemed contrived and silly. Read morePublished 11 months ago by joan galloway
A quirky read. I lived all the characters and wished Emma would have had more romance in her life.Published 11 months ago by R. Tannahill
As ordinary and strange and beautiful as the Saskatchewan prairie. Heartbreakingly honest. Simply true. A book to read again. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Saskatchewan Reader