Etta and Otto and Russell and James

A Novel

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

A gorgeous literary debut about unlikely heroes, lifelong promises, and last great adventures.


The letter began, in blue ink,

I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. Don’t worry, I’ve left you the truck. I can walk. I will try to remember to come back.

Yours (always),


Otto finds the note left by his wife in the kitchen of their farmhouse in windswept Saskatchewan. Eighty-three-year-old Etta will be walking 3,200 kilometers to see the ocean, but somehow, Otto understands. He took his own journey once before, to fight in a faraway land.

With Etta gone, Otto struggles with his demons of war, while their friend Russell initially pursues the woman he has loved from afar.

And James—well, James you have to meet on the page.

Moving from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty, burnt past of hunger, war, and passion, from trying to remember to trying to forget, Etta and Otto and Russell and James is an astounding literary debut about friendship and love, hope and honor, and the romance of last—great—adventures.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476755670 | 
  • January 2015
List Price $26.00
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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
Photograph by Martin Tompkins

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. Etta and Otto and Russell and James is her first novel.