Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

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This quirky book focusses on Etta, a retired prairie emma2school teacher who decides to fulfill a lifelong dream to see the Atlantic Ocean.  And, she decides to walk there.  She leaves a note for her husband Otto asking him not to follow her, and sets off one morning.  As with many literary journeys, hers is both physical and spiritual.  Etta reflects on her life as she walks, revealing how she happened into a job at a dusty one room school house, fell in love with a boy who was sent off to war, and ended up marrying another.  She becomes a reluctant celebrity as her journey is observed, documented and celebrated by people along the way.  Like Forrest Gump, she never asks for help on her walk, but folks are happy to provide it. An interesting twist is that James, a fox, joins Etta early in her walk and becomes her advisor and protector.  Etta’s memories paint a picture of how the war years deeply impacted daily life on the prairies — both the lives of communities and the lives of individuals. Otto, the husband Etta leaves behind, comforts himself by baking his way through Etta’s recipe box.  This is Emma Hooper’s first book and it has been translated into 18 languages, which attests to its universal appeal. She is definitely a writer to watch! This  book was chosen as Edmonton Public Library’s “One Book:  One Community” book last Fall.  Our own “One Book: One Community” book was recently announced, and is Amy Jones’ “We’re all in this together”.  Watch our website www.tbpl.ca/onebook for more information about what we have planned.

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