author: Hugh Cook
mosaic Press, 2012.
280 pages. $22.95
animals and vulnerable people are at the heart of the fourth book of
fiction from Hamilton, Ont.,
author Hugh Cook. They inspire reflection on compassion, innocence and evil in
a narrative woven around a
handful of characters in the
town of Caithness, a fictionalized version of Caledonia, Ont.
Caithness is a semi-rural
area adjacent to the Six Nations Indian Reserve on the
banks of the Grand River,
about 100 km southwest of Toronto – not far from Hamilton.
(Full disclosure: I took courses
from Cook as a student at Redeemer University College
and now teach his third-year
creative writing course.)
Heron River’s protagonist is Madeline, who in 1994
is a middle-aged high school
teacher coping with multiple
sclerosis as well as guilt from
an accident that caused brain
damage in her son Adam 20
years before. Madeline regularly visits her aged father in
a medical facility – he suffers
from dementia and doesn’t
seem to understand most communication.
Adam in 1994 is an adult
who occasionally visits her
from a nearby group home.
The novel also focuses
on Jacob, a good-
who gets his thrills
slipping into the
homes of customers
on vacation; Tara, a
in a domestic dis-
pute; and Orrin, a
troubled young man from a
animals is significant, an idea underlined by Keller, a Native character who
and shares Native
creation stories that
highlight the fragility
of the world.
The novel’s Christian elements are mostly implicit rather than explicit, and
characters occasionally use
foul language. Like many literary novels it’s big on character
and description and sometimes
dark in mood, but it sticks to
everyday language and includes suspense and hopeful
elements. A great choice for a
recent Publications of note
•;Christ;Our;Reconciler:;Gospel,;Church,;World,;edited by Julia E.
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from the historic Cape Town 2010 Lausanne Congress, one of the
most representative gatherings of the global Church in the history of Christianity.
Michael Higgins and Kevin Burns (Novalis, 2012). An illuminating
biography of the Dutch-born psychologist and Roman Catholic
priest (1932-1996) who wrote 39 books and after 1985 made his
home in Richmond Hill, Ont., at Daybreak, a L’Arche community
for people with intellectual disabilities.
With Asking the Right Questions by Ted Hull (Word Alive, 2011).
The author, chair of Missionfest Manitoba, draws on 25 years of
work with churches and charities to tackle 16 questions board
members need to answer.
•;Kingdom;Beyond;Borders:;Finding;Hope;Along;the;Refugee;High-way by Helena Smrcek (WestBow, 2011). True educational and
inspirational stories about refugees connected with the Helping
Hands Ministry in Athens, Greece. The author, a former refugee,
lives in Ontario.
•;Theology;in;Aisle;Seven,;an e-book by Carolyn Arends (
Christianity Today International, 2012). Twenty-five refreshing and insightful musings by an award-winning writer and musician from British
by Hans Boersma (Eerdmans, 2011). A theologian at Regent Col-
lege draws on Christian thinkers throughout history to encour-
age Evangelicals and other Christians to retrieve a sacramental
worldview, and cultivate a greater awareness of our participation
in eternal mysteries beyond the here and now.