Title: Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Author: Emma Hooper
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Format: egalley via Netgalley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My review (published at Read, Run, Ramble):
Thank you Simon & Schuster via Netgalley for providing me with an early copy of this book!
I will begin by telling readers that I immediately fell in love with Etta and Otto and Russell and James, both the book/story and the characters themselves. I started reading and didn’t want to stop.
Etta decides, at the wonderful age of 82, that she must see the water, so she starts walking towards it (no short journey – she has several thousand miles to walk if she is to make it). Otto, not quite sure how to deal with temporarily losing her, but knowing he shouldn’t go after her, is lost at first, but quickly finds his way through. Now, Russell isn’t quite as flexible and he deals with Etta’s leaving aggressively. And James? Well, James is a talking coyote and his presence in the story is both meaningful and magical.
Through letters, dialogue, and flashbacks/memories, readers will jump back and forth between present day and the past with all the characters to learn their stories – who they are, how they met, and how they got to this point in time where Etta needed to see the water so desperately that she simply up and left.
Many reviews have mentioned, rightfully so, the lack of dialogue punctuation. Much of the novel is dialogue, yet there are no quotations and other punctuation is often missing or misplaced. However, this doesn’t take away from the story; it actually adds to it. I think the author created a certain atmosphere – a certain feel – in her story and with her characters that is made stronger by the lack of this punctuation. It is simple, basic, and raw – just like the emotions and events she’s portraying with her writing. Hooper did a magnificent job in my opinion – the writing is exceptionally perfect for this story.
Much like the fact that she never comes right out and writes words like war, soldier, combat, or anything similar. She never writes of dates or specific events, but her writing leads readers to the answers – there is no “telling” in Hooper’s writing. This is particularly what led me to 5 stars, really pushed it over the edge; Hooper beautifully describing scenes, events, and people and not just telling readers what is and was going on.
I know it is early in the year, but this one gets spot #1 for now – best book I’ve read in 2015. I’ll be recommending it to anyone who will listen so if you’re reading this, you should just go grab it now!
I was provided with an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I am not compensated for any of my reviews.