I received and advanced review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley
Otto Vogel comes from a family of fifteen children that live on a farm in rural Saskatchewan. Russell, when he is nine years old, is sent to live with his aunt and uncle who are neighbors of the Vogel family. Russell plays with the Vogel children, eats with the family and does a fair share of chores on their farm and thus becomes the honorary 16th member of the Vogel family.
Otto, against the wishes of his mother, joins the army and is shipped to Europe when World War II breaks out. Otto keeps up a correspondence with the teacher at the local school whose name is Etta. Through their letters they fall in love and when Otto gets back to Canada they marry and have a long and happy life together. Russell, who lives next door, becomes just as good friends with Etta as he has been with Otto.
The story flashes back from the present when Etta, Otto, and Russell are in their eighties to the younger years of the Vogel farm when Otto and Russell are children, to Otto’s experiences in World War II and to Etta’s life with her family before she meets Otto and Russell. The writing style of the novel is very curt and direct and mimics the simplicity of the characters themselves.
When Etta is 83, she is starting to lose her memories and she decides that she has never seen the ocean and decides to walk from Manitoba to Halifax. Along the way she meets a coyote named Russell who becomes her loyal traveling companion. For the first time in their lives, Etta, Otto, and Russell each pursue separate paths from one another. Etta walks for months towards the east, Otto stays at home making paper mache animals and Russell goes up north in search of wildlife.
Although they have been together for their entire lives, it seems that the more they are apart, the more they lose themselves and their identities. They each feel compelled to pursue separate goals at the end of their lives, but can they ever really break the strong ties that have held them together for so many years?
This is a heart-warming story of family, love, memory and personal identity. ETTA, AND OTTO AND RUSSELL AND JAMES is a quick and easy read but one that will resonate in your heart and memory for a long time to come.
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