“Otto, I've gone. I've never seen the water, so I've gone there. I will try to remember to come back. Yours (always), Etta.”
Eighty-two-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. So early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles from Saskatchewan, rural Canada, eastward to the coast.
Her husband Otto wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. I will try to remember to come back, Etta writes to him.
Otto has seen the ocean, having crossed the Atlantic years ago to fight in a far-away war. He understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in and Otto struggles to keep them at bay.
Meanwhile their neighbour, Russell remembers the past too - but differently - and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.
“Incredibly moving, beautifully written and luminous with wisdom. It is a book that restores one's faith in life even as it deepens its mystery”– Chris Cleave
Rocking back and forth with the pull of the waves, this is a novel of pilgrimage, of fulfilling lifelong promises, of memory and longing, of unlikely heroes and of hundreds of papier-mache animals. We're delighted to be featuring it as our first book club choice of 2015.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James is the debut novel by author Emma Hooper, who divides her time between a number of artistic and academic endeavours that feed and inspire each other. As a musician, her solo project "Waitress for the Bees" tours internationally and has earned her a Finnish Cultural Knighthood. Meanwhile, as an author, she has published short stories, non-fiction pieces, poetry and libretti as well as a number of academic papers and presentations on a range of things from retro-futurism to gender studies in pop music.
Emma is currently a research-lecturer at Bath Spa University. She lives in the UK but goes home to cross-country ski in Canada as much as she can afford.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James will be published by Fig Tree on 29 January 2015 . Our 150 free advance copies have now been snapped up - but don't forget that if you do receive one you will need to read it in time to add your comments and questions to the thread before the end of January.