A walk with Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Emma Hooper's novel is a beautiful tale about a woman's quest to walk across Canada to see the sea. It tells of her journey, her relationships, her memories, a coyote, and papier mache!
The book, called 'Etta and Otto and Russell and James' was released in January to glowing reviews. And I loved it too, so was eager to introduce it to our customers in Woodbridge.
Amongst the various publicity I organised to promote the event, I asked the pupils and art teacher from Woodbridge Primary School to replicate an element of the book. One of the characters, Otto, makes life-size papier-mache animals to use up stacks of newspapers he has accumulated. And one of the other characters in the book is James, a cayote who befriends the old lady, Etta as she makes her journey across Canada.
The children made the most beautiful life-size cayote for us to display at the Riverside Cinema foyer to promote our event, and it was a great hit. I was sorry to see him go, returning him to the school after the event; he'd stayed in my hallway until I had a suitable means to transport him.
For the event itself, acknowledging Etta's journey across Canada, I'd organised our own, shorter, walk along the river wall in Woodbridge, stopping to hear excerpts from the book read by the author.
Unfortunately it was a horrible, horrible afternoon. As we waited for everyone to gather in the Riverside Cinema foyer, beside the papier mache model of the cayote, James, the sky was black, and the rain pounded down.
But our audience of 24 were dressed for the weather and, after taking a vote, they were all keen to continue with the walk. And for those 20 minutes the rain stopped!
We walked together to the Tide Mill, the Caravan Cafe and the covered benches by the river beach for a short reading at each point by the author.
It was cold and bleak, but Emma read beautifully and it was a lovely introduction to the book's story and her writing.
A brisk walk back over the railway footbridge and into the Riverside Restaurant where we were served with tea and a maple syrup flapjack as we listened to Emma in conversation, and also playing her ukelele.
Emma had travelled all the way from Bath, by public transport, on a Sunday, to join us. She doesn't drive much and in her adopted home town, she tends to cycle. The day before, she told us, she had fallen off her bike while avoiding a car, and had hurt her finger so was unable to play the viola as we had hoped. But she battled with the injury to play the ukelele as she sang one of her songs. Her voice was absolutely astonishing. Incredibly beautiful. But we were all concerned about her finger which was swollen and changing colour.
The afternoon concluded at 4pm when the audience members each received a goody bag containing the book and some maple syrup to take away. Everyone loved meeting Emma and couldn't wait to go home to read the book.