Thursday, May 26, 7:30 PM
Audrey’s Books 10702 Jasper Ave.
With special guest, Darcie Friesen Hossack, reading from Mennonites Don’t Dance
In 1959 Ray and Daisy Cook and their five children were brutally slain in their modest home in the central Alberta town of Stettler. Robert Raymond Cook, Ray Cook’s son from his first marriage, was convicted of the crime, and had the infamy of becoming the last man hanged in Alberta.
Forty-six years later, a troublesome character named Louise in a story that Betty Jane Hegerat finds herself inexplicably reluctant to write, becomes entangled in the childhood memory of hearing about that gruesome mass murder. Through four years of obsessively tracking the demise of the Cook family, and dancing around the fate of the fictional family, the problem that will not go away is how to bring the story to the page. A work of nonfiction about the Cooks and their infamous son, or a novel about Louise and her problem stepson? Both stories keep coming back to the boy.
Part memoir, part investigation, part novella, part writer’s journal, The Boy, is the author’s final capitulation to telling the story with all of the troublesome questions unanswered.
Among the things I like best about this book is its steady, sure-handed tone and style. Hegerat’s unconventional approach to its subject – what turns a boy into a killer, applied obliquely to the case of the last man hanged in Alberta, Robert Raymond Cook – yields truths that otherwise could be only guessed at. We’ll never know any answers for sure, but Hegerat’s meditation gives us a different, useful, and wise angle.
– Sharon Butala, author of The Girl in Saskatoon
Oolichan Books: http://www.oolichan.com
Nominated for the 2011 Commonwealth First Books Prize, and the Danuta Gleed Award
This vibrant collection of short fictions explores how families work, how they are torn apart, and, in spite of differences and struggles, brought back together. Darcie Friesen Hossack’s stories in Mennonites Don’t Dance offer an honest, detailed look into the experiences of children both young and adultand their parents and grandparents,exploring generational ties, sins, penance and redempion.
Taking place primarily on the Canadian prairies, the families in these stories are confronted by the conflict between tradition and change one story sees a daughter-in-law’s urban ideals push and pull against a mother’s simple, rural ways, in another, a daughter raised in the Mennonite tradition tries to break free from her upbringing to escape to the city in search of a better life. Children learn the rules of farm life, and parents learn that their decisions, in spite of all good intentions, can carry dire consequences.
Hossack’s talent, honed through education and experience, is showcased in this polished collection, and is reflected in the relatable, realistic characters and situations she creates. The voices in the stories speak about how we measure ourselves in the absence of family, and how the most interesting families are always flawed in some way.
Thistledown Press: http://www.thistledownpress.com/