Etta and Otto and Russell and James

A Novel

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

A gorgeous literary debut about an elderly woman’s last great adventure walking across Canada. A beautiful novel of pilgrimage, of fulfilling lifelong promises, of a talking coyote called James, of unlikely heroes and hundreds of papier-mâché animals…

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 3,232 kilometers from 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.

Russell has spent his whole life trying to keep up with Otto and loving Etta from afar. Russell insists on finding Etta, wherever she’s gone. Leaving his own farm will be the first act of defiance in his life.

As Etta walks further toward the ocean, accompanied by a coyote named James, the lines among memory, illusion, and reality blur. Rocking back and forth with the pull of the waves, Etta and Otto and Russell and James moves from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty burnt past of hunger, war, passion, and hope; from trying to remember to trying to forget; and inspires each of its characters to visit the sites they’ve longed to see and say the things they’ve longed to say. This is dazzling literary fiction about the rediscovery and care of the soul, and the idea it’s never too late for a great adventure.
  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781442382657 | 
  • January 2015
List Price $17.99 (price may vary by retailer)
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Etta and Otto and Russell and James includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Emma Hooper. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Otto Vogel wakes before dawn on his farm in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, to find a letter from his wife, Etta. She will return if she can; she has never seen water and has gone to find the ocean. When their beloved neighbor Russell Palmer learns from Otto that she has left, he embarks on a mission to find her. Her husband chooses to stay home.

The two men had formed a deep bond as boys after an accident on a tractor left Russell partially crippled. Thereafter they alternated days at the schoolhouse, which was run by a young teacher, Etta Gloria Kinnick. Then World War II came, when Otto and every other young man in town (except Russell, because of his disability) was called to serve. As time passed, Etta read of Otto’s experiences in the war during a tender correspondence between them, which blossomed into romance when the young man returned on leave. Russell supported Etta emotionally when she suffered a devastating loss, but Etta chose Otto, not Russell, as her husband. The see more

Articles About This Book

About the Author

Emma Hooper
Sean Maylon

Emma Hooper

Raised in Alberta, Canada, Emma Hooper brought her love of music and literature to the UK, where she received a doctorate in Musico-Literary studies at the University of East-Anglia and currently lectures at Bath Spa University. A musician, Emma performs as the solo artist Waitress for the Bees and plays with a number of bands. She lives in Bath, UK, but goes home to Canada to cross-country ski whenever she can. She is the author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James and Our Homesick Songs.