ETTA AND OTTO AND RUSSELL AND JAMES. By Emma Hooper. Simon & Schuster. 305 pages. $26.
Etta Kinnick needs to see the water. It’s more than 2,000 miles from Saskatchewan to the Atlantic, and she’s 83, but she needs to go, so she leaves her husband a note and starts walking.
Otto Vogel understands. It’s hard for both of them, but hardship is just something to face and keep going, after all. So among the many things they experience, Otto learns to cook a few things for himself, and Etta discovers the comfort of athletic shoes.
Both of their journeys are told sparingly but lyrically, letting the reader sink into the story and the mysteries of these people and their needs. But there are many odd things about this book, including talking fish skulls and paper mache skills. Sometimes the circumstances and characters get so odd that the reader is thrown right out of the story.
But oddity can be beautiful, and “Etta and Otto and Russell and James” just shines. It will leave readers feeling bittersweet triumph throughout the journeys and sorrow when they end.
Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.