Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Etta is a woman of 83 who rises early one morning on her farm in Canada’s prairie province Saskatchewan, packs a few useful items in a bag, slings a rifle over her shoulder, and sets out on foot to see the ocean. When her husband, Otto, comes downstairs, some time later, he finds Etta’s note – “I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there” – and a pile of recipe cards so that he’ll know how to feed himself while she is gone. Otto has never lived alone. Etta sometimes has trouble remembering who she is. that is where James comes in. He is her coyote guardian angel.
The book goes back and forth between the past and the present. Otto is one of 15 children (he was number 7, and the children were more often accounted for at dinner by number than name), so suffice it to say that when Etta takes off it is the first time in his long life that he has been left alone. Russell was dropped off at his childless aunt and uncles house mid-childhood and got swept up in Otto's family. He became 7 1/2 because he fell after Otto and before his brother in the "birth order". Russell needed to be adopted, just not by his biological family. Etta meets both of them she comes as a very young student teacher. The story is unexpected, a little whimsical, and a good read.