Over the years, choosing one book to gift our adult relatives has become a bit of a thing in our household. That’s why this weekend when my husband and I found ourselves temporarily childless, we settled in for a marathon browsing session on all our favourite book sites. [If you are my parents or in-laws, now is a good time to stop reading and close your browser. No peeking.]
We had thought that choosing this years Book would be a no-brainer — Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers is still mentioned as the best book we’ve ever given, and deWitt had a new book out this year. What we didn’t bank on is that our Irish relatives actively sought out a copy of Undermajordomo Minor upon its publication.
Which left us a bit stumped.
We tossed around some big titles from 2015 — Hana Yanagihara’s A Little Life and Booker-prize winner Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, my husband’s favourite reads of the year, were mentioned and then discarded as not being upbeat enough for holiday gift giving.
I was all for giving out Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a Lost Child, but wasn’t sure that everyone in the family had kept up with the Neopolitan novels. (I’m purposefully deferring reading Ferrante’s latest because I really really really like delayed reading gratification.)
In the end, it was this CBC piece from January that captured our imaginations and decided the matter for us.
Though neither of us have read it, we’ve decided that Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James is The Book for gift giving in 2015.
The novel begins with a letter from 82-year old Saskatchewan native Emma to her husband, Otto:
“I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. Don’t worry, I’ve left you the truck. I can walk. I will try to remember to come back.”
The water Emma refers to is the Atlantic Ocean and she embarks on the 3232 km journey alone and on foot — the last great adventure of her life. As Emma walks and Otto waits old memories resurface revealing a past full of hunger, war, passion and hope.