Book Talks: Etta and Otto and Russell and James and The Leftovers

etta and otto and russell and jamesEtta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

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 from Saskatchewan to Halifax.

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 faraway 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.  Leaving his own farm to find Etta will be the first act of defiance in his life.

As Etta walks toward the ocean, accompanied by a coyote named James, her past and present blur. Rocking back and forth with the pull of the waves, the story 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.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper, described as a beautiful novel that reminds us that it’s never too late to see the things you’ve longed to see, or to say the things you’ve longed to say, can be requested through the Haliburton County Public Library.

the leftoversThe Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

What if, just all of a sudden, with no fanfare or explanation, seemingly at random, a number of us just vanished? Would we collapse in the face of having lost loved ones? Would we drown in guilt if by some chance we lost no one? That’s what the bewildered residents of Mapleton who lost many friends and family in an event known as the Sudden Departure need to figure out.

In The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, Mapleton’s new mayor, Kevin Garvey wants to speed up the healing process a year after the Sudden Departure left his town reeling. Although Kevin didn’t lose anyone to the event, since the Sudden Departure his wife Laurie has joined the Guilty Remnant (a homegrown cult where members take a vow of silence); his son Tom has dropped out of college to follow sketchy prophet Holy Wayne and his Healing Hugs movement; and while his daughter Jill remains at home, she is no longer the sweet young girl and straight “A” student she used to be. Kevin wants to help his daughter shake some of the bad habits she’s developed, but he’s distracted by his developing relationship with Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family to the Sudden Departure and is struggling to make a new start.

With heart and intelligence, Tom Perrotta illuminates the struggles of everyday life against the backdrop of extraordinarily bizarre circumstances. The Leftovers is available in print and audio at the Haliburton County Public Library.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM January 25th – February 7th, 2015.

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