I’d like you to do something for me: go and put January 29th 2015 in your diary. Or better yet, go to Amazon and pre-order what has been, for me, the best book I have read in the past year.
Etta is an 82 year old Canadian woman who never having seen the ocean, decides to set out to walk to the east until she encounters the sea. She takes very little with her – a few provisions, a rifle and her best boots – and leaving a note for her husband Otto, begins her walk.
Hooper tells a story of such simplicity yet perfectly captures the lives of childhood friends, love, war and a journey of such magnitude that takes place not only across the vastness of Canada,but within the hearts of the main characters.
The author’s prose is sparse, often unpunctuated and with more than a touch of magical realism. It is sometimes difficult to know what is real and what is fabricated by the senile minds of Otto and Etta – did James, the talking coyote, exist or was he a product of Etta’s imagination?
Hooper uses dust and water throughout the story, sprinkling the metaphors so lightly and deftly that it is only after finishing the book that I realised she had used them.
The story is told from the point of view of several characters, both in the present and in their earlier lives. There is a period, the longest portion of their lives, we know nothing about. Ms. Hooper leaves the back story at the end of WW2 and we only pick up again in the here and now. Part of me aches to know what happened to Etta and Otto and Russell in the intervening years, but it is down to the skill of the author and her character depiction that really, I already know.
The ending of the book is perfect and I cried. I cried for the characters, for their heartaches and missed chances and for the fullness of their love filled lives.
Now, go and pre-order the book.