Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review: "Etta and Otto and Russell and James" by Emma Hooper

I'm going to be real honest with you all. I stopped my 25 before 26 memoir/biography challenge. I made it through 11 books - some I really enjoyed and some that weren't my favorite. I stopped..because I was bored. I needed something else to read besides adventures other people have had. Maybe I'll read 25 before the end of 2016..who knows. I just know that it wasn't something I was enjoying any longer, so I thought stopping would be easier. At least for now.

And with that, I bring you:

From Simon and Schuster.com: "Eighty-three-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 Saskatchewan, Canada eastward to the sea. As Etta walks further toward the crashing waves, the lines among memory, illusion, and reality blur.

Otto wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. “I will try to remember to come back,” Etta writes to her husband. 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 neighbor 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.

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 “of deep longing, for reinvention and self-discovery, as well as for the past and for love and for the boundless unknown” (San Francisco Chronicle). “In this haunting debut, set in a starkly beautiful landscape, Hooper delineates the stories of Etta and the men she loved (Otto and Russell) as they intertwine through youth and wartime and into old age. It’s a lovely book you’ll want to linger over” (People)."

I found this little one in the Half Price Book's clearance section - I go there from time to time and choose books that sound "okay". That way, if I don't like them, I only spent 2 dollars at the most. This one surprised me. 

Beautiful and heartbreaking. That's really my thoughts on it. It talks of memories, of loss, of adventure, and of finding. Finding yourself, finding a new world..I mean, it's one that I just think you have to read to understand. And quite possibly, have to do to understand. Have to decide what's best for you, maybe at the risk of someone else - and then live with the consequences.

It broke my heart, but it also brings home something that I've been thinking about as this year ends - deciding. Trying. DOING. Something that I don't do. I live in fear. I crouch in the corner and pretend that my little life is all I'm destined for. And that's not true. A life worth lived isn't little at all - even if you're not a daredevil or someone in the spotlight. 

In 2016, I don't want to live in fear. I know everyone makes these big life changes and doesn't follow through with them all the time - that's what December becomes. But it isn't even about that for me. It's more about becoming the person that I already am..but with less chains. Less holding back. And I'm looking forward to it. Terrified, I am..but hopeful.

1// "We're all scared, most of the time. Life would be lifeless if we weren't. Be scared, and then jump into that fear. Again and again. Just remember to hold on to yourself while you do it."

A reinforcement of what I just said above. Choosing to live within the fear. To go at it, guns blazing - or even just one step at a time. But the choice is to go at it. That's what I choose. What I'm going to choose.

2// "If we're doing we're living and if we're living we're winning, right?"

I'm pretty sure that one is on an inspirational poster somewhere. Or the Rock said it. Either of the two. In all seriousness though, we all like to win. We all like to do something. And if we're making effort, there's no loss in that. Doing something is always better than nothing. And in life, you can't exactly do nothing. No one's given that luxury.

Read it for the sole purpose that it is wonderful. The characters are beautiful and very vulnerable. They've known each other since childhood and are forced to confront each relationship at once - something they've never had to do. Read it because it's original. It's ending - equal parts "throw the book against the wall and scream WHAT THE HELL" and "oh. I don't know what to think about that" and "that's not how I thought it would end, but sweet..I liked it" - will leave you with questions, but also questions answered. Adventure, unending love, coyotes, and the wildness that life hurtles at you - this one has it all. I definitely recommend it.


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