Book Review- Etta and Otto and Russell and James


Title- Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Author- Emma Hooper
Published- 2015
Genre- Contemporary
Length- 278 pages
Rating- 4/5

I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water.

Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently – and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

Review- I received this book as my March book from my subscription service, The Willoughby Book Club.

Whenever I get my subscription book I look at the reviews before starting it. This one had quite mixed reviews, some people seem to absolutely love it, and others hate it, claiming that it is unrealistic. It is unrealistic, incredibly unrealistic, but it is still a wonderful book. 

The book follows three main characters, Etta, Otto, and Russell, in the past and present. James is somewhat of a side “character”, only around in the present. The book switches between times and characters very frequently, sometimes after a couple of pages, sometimes after a couple of sentences. It makes it a very easy and quick read.

The characters are all likeable and the different time frames mean that, despite being a short book, you learn a lot about each main character, much more than you usually can with books set in just one time.

In the early past when they are still kids, the relationship between Otto and Russell reminded me a bit of Owen and John in A Prayer for Owen Meany. If you have read my review of that, you know I love it so that says something about how I feel about this book. Etta is, I suppose, the main character. Yes she is interesting but she is also just a good person, or good human, as one of my friends says. I appreciate good humans, in real life and in books. I read a review where someone described James as “pointless”. James is, in a traditional sense, a ridiculous addition to the story, but I really liked his presence, it was, for want of a better word, sweet.

There are some parts of the book that are a little obscure, mostly where Etta gets confused. These parts were less enjoyable than the rest of the book but they were pretty short so didn’t really cause much of a problem.

I suppose there is a bit of a Forrest Gump vibe about part of the story. He goes running, Etta goes walking, both without much of a purpose and both get a positive public response. Other than that this book is like nothing I have ever read before.

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a really sweet and easy read. If you insist on a story being about something possible/likely then this isn’t the book for you.


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