Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Etta and Otto and Russell and James (Novel)

Etta Gloria Kinnick of Deerdale farm. 83 years old in August.
Otto Vogel. Husband. Soldier/Farmer. (Living)
Russell Palmer. Friend, Farmer/Explorer. (Living)
As Etta walks across Canada in order to see the ocean, she carries a note in her pocket to remind herself of who she is and who she has loved.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper is a beautiful little story. If the novel were a painting, I would say that in just a few strokes it shows the essence of the subject. In just a few words, with simple language, with just a few key scenes, Hooper describes the essence of the friendships, loves, loses, and war experiences of the characters.

The plotlines of Etta and Otto and Russell and James cover two major time periods: the 1930s/early 1940s and the present day. In the early time period, we learn about the families of  Etta, Otto, and Russell. As a young boy, Russell makes himself part of the large Vogel household and becomes Otto's friend. When their teacher becomes sick, Etta takes over and forms a friendship with the boys, who are the same age as she is. When Otto goes to war, Etta and Otto exchange letters and fall in love. When the school closes because of lack of pupils, Etta takes factory work and waits for Otto to return. In the meantime, Russell becomes a farmer, acquiring some of the untended farms. In the present day, Etta leaves Otto a note saying that she is going to go in search of the water, which Otto realizes is over three thousand kilometers away. As Etta waited for Otto, he now waits for her. In time he begins to make paper mach—ź animals that he plans to give her when she comes back. Both Etta and Otto becomes celebrities of sorts: Etta for her trip, Otto for her art. As for James, one really needs to read the book to quite understand.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is a book that you need to feel with your heart as much as read with your head. After I finished reading the novel, scenes kept on flashing into my consciousness. I saw dozens of scenes, each so perfect and filled with meaning, with heart. I feel blessed to have read the book.

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