My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My reaction to this novel wavered: sometimes ho-hum, sometimes put off by a stylistic decision, sometimes drawn in and fascinated. I remained puzzled throughout. There are two kinds of puzzlement (at least): 1. puzzled, confused, annoyed and 2. puzzled,intrigued,pondering–willing to reread. My experience was mostly the latter.
This is not a realistic novel, so that opens the door to the question of Why? What reality beyond reality can be conveyed through non-reality? My first answer to that was a feminist one. Etta had so melded with Otto that she needed something dramatic to regain her own identity, so she left, at age 82, on an unrealistic trek across the whole of Canada, on foot. And Otto, understanding, let her go. How else to explain his not pursuing her? Or her dreaming his war dreams? That held up for the first half, then data no longer fit. (view spoiler) I don’t yet have a second answer.
I found it interesting that she always had enough money, that her shoes wore out only once. I began to wonder if the whole novel–in spite of being told from three points of view–was all taking place in one mind. In some ways, the end supports that. (view spoiler)
Early on the pacing was tedious. I kept waiting for a revelation of why Etta left; I kept waiting for the story of a juicy triangle. Neither happened. The triangle was real, but very low key. No more reason was given than we got in the first line of the novel. Normally I like a novel that moves meaningfully between past and present. This one didn’t seem to move meaningfully, but arbitrarily. And the portions were too short. So I found it annoying, at first. I even wondered if in fact there would be no story if it were told chronologically. Gradually, however, the segments of each portion got longer, and I got more attuned to the characters, and I got to caring more about them the more I learned. I pondered who loved Etta more, Otto who let her go or Russell who pursued her.
And is it significant that the talking animal is coyote, and Coyote is a known trickster? And if so, what was the trick?
Yes, I will most likely read the novel again someday.