Canada – From coast to Coast – Etta and Otto and Russell and James – Emma Hooper

ettaAndOtto2

Why a booktrail?

A love story spanning fifty years, two continents and a great ocean

Story in a nutshell

The past and present of three very different people living in the vast open space of the Canadian prairies.

Etta is a school teacher who settles in the vast Canadian prairies during the time of the Great Depression.  Years later she is now elderly and suffering from Alzheimer’s when she decides to go for a walk from Saskatchewan to Halifax to see the sea.

As she walks, the only thing she takes with her is a note which says ” Etta Gloria Kinnick of Deerdale Farm. 83 years old in August.” A reminder of who she is in case she forgets. She is later accompanied by a coyote who she calls James.

As she walks she thinks about the time she met her husband Otto, before he left to served in the army. She also remembers Russell who lives on the farm next door.

This is the story of Etta and Otto and Russell and James and how their stories interweave into threads of love, hope and nostalgia.

Place and setting

A rough guide to the Journey Etta takes us on!
A rough guide to the Journey Etta takes us on!

The Canadian prairies

Etta walks the story of her and Otto’s life – back when she was Otto’s schoolteacher, when they lived on a farm in a rural town close to their childhood friend and Ella’s not very secret admirer Russell.

From the past….

The farming community back in the day is a harsh environment with farming families needing large families to live off the land, Otto is from a large family , all of them ‘ruddy enfants’ . Russel is learning how farming works and how hard life is. Etta is left behind as Otto fights, waiting for his return.

To the present…

Now years later, the roles are reversed and Otto is forced to wait for Etta as she undertakes the journey of her life. As he waits, he tries to live as best he can. He draws a dotted line across the globe they have and imagines tracing her path and leaving a trail that he hopes will allow her to find her way back to him. He tells her of the day to day life on the farm in her absence and the fact if anyone asks, he tells them she’s out.

As she walks

Soon she meets and befriends a coyote who she calls James. The journey then takes on a magical, mystical feel as it becomes ever more risky for an elderly woman walking alone.

The days get hotter and longer with the sun coming up before five thirty and going down well after nine. The feeling of wandering, of a stream of consciousness portrays Ella’s mind as well as the vast and rural landscape which stretches out before her.

This is the story of a journey steeped in the past but stretching out in to the future and the horizon of their lives.

Left - North Saskatchewan sunset - (C) Tourism Saskatchewan and Greg Husar Photography Right - Saskatoon sunset (c) Tourism Saskatchewan/Hans-Gerhard Pfaff
Left – North Saskatchewan sunset – (C) Tourism Saskatchewan and Greg Husar Photography
Right – Saskatoon sunset (c) Tourism Saskatchewan/Hans-Gerhard Pfaff

Review

What a sweet and endearing novel! It’s hard to write too much about without alluding to what happens but it’s more of a  novel you experience and slowly get to know the characters through until you feel you’re walking alongside Etta. Poor Otto though! I really felt for him and his mapping out her journey on the globe. I felt his sadness and sense of abandonment but it was clever how roles were reversed and Etta had once been the one left behind.

This was a sad novel but a heartwarming one – well with a coyote called James who talks, there has to be some poignant moments. The whole story had an ethereal feel to it and a sense that like life, you are never meant to know or interpret everything as sometimes, things are best left open ended and vague.

A sweet, meandering novel and a love song to Canada at the same time. The music of which has lingered in my ears ever since.

One thought on “Canada – From coast to Coast – Etta and Otto and Russell and James – Emma Hooper

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