Cook, Hugh 1942-
COOK, Hugh 1942-
PERSONAL: Born 1942, in The Hague, Netherlands; immigrated to Canada, 1950; married Judy Vanden Eykel (a family and marriage therapist), 1965; children: three. Education: Calvin College, B.A. (English), 1964; Simon Fraser University, M.A., 1967; University of Iowa, Iowa Writers' Workshop, M.F.A., 1978. Hobbies and other interests: Winemaking, crossword puzzles, Toronto Blue Jays ball games.
ADDRESSES: Home—Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Office—Redeemer University College, 777 Garner Road East, Ancaster, Ontario L9K 1J4, Canada; fax: 905-648-2134. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Mosaic Press, 1252 Speers Road, Units One and Two, Oakville, Ontario L6L 5N9, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and educator. Dordt College, Sioux Center, IA, professor of English; Redeemer College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, professor of English. Wiersma Memorial Lecturer, Calvin College, 2001.
MEMBER: Writers' Union of Canada, Word Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ontario Arts Council grant, 1988; Leslie K. Tarr Award for outstanding contribution to the field of Christian writing, Faith Today, 1997; City of Hamilton Book Award for fiction, Hamilton and Regional Arts Council, 1998, for Home in Alfalfa.
Cracked Wheat and Other Stories, Middleburg Press (Orange City, IA), 1984.
The Homecoming Man (novel), Mosaic Press (Oakville, Ontario, Canada), 1989.
Home in Alfalfa: Stories, Mosaic Press (Oakville, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Contributor of poems to Canadian literary journals.
SIDELIGHTS: A Canadian writer of Dutch lineage, Hugh Cook published his first work, Cracked Wheat and Other Stories, at the age of forty-two. The stories in Cracked Wheat are about rural Canadian life among a community of Dutch immigrants of the Calvinist faith. Consequently, Cook's stories have a deeply moral and religious foundation, even though they never overtly preach to the reader. Taken as a whole, the book is an examination of the immigrant experience as lived by the deeply religious Dutch Calvinists of the Canadian prairie. Many of the stories are laden with symbolism and descriptive narrative. The collection drew different responses from various critics. A contributor to Christian Century felt that Cracked Wheat is worth the read, stating that Cook's stories are "rich in charm" and "emotionally expressive." Gideon Forman of Books in Canada commented that while Cook fails to "sufficiently probe" the book's themes, he applauded the book's "evocative descriptions, carefully drawn details, and poignant moments."
Cook's first novel, The Homecoming Man, garnered a fair amount of critical success for its portrayal of a father and a son who spend a summer together after many years of being apart. The story explores the relationship between Gerrit Bloem, an elderly widower, and his son Paul, who is a recently divorced professor of modern languages at a university in Vancouver. Needing a break from city life, Paul decides to spend his summer at his childhood home with Gerrit, where he intends to translate seventeenth-century Dutch love poems. When he first arrives, Paul realizes that an emotional chasm exists between himself and his father. Paul also discovers a locked door in the basement of the house that Gerrit will not discuss. "The door comes to represent the emotional block that keeps the men from voicing either their mutual love or their old griefs," commented Margaret D. Smith in Christianity Today.
Brenda Man, reviewing the book for Canadian Materials, called The Homecoming Man a "sensitive and absorbing novel." Labeling Cook a "thoughtful writer," Man recommended the work for anyone who is "interested in explorations of moral and psychological issues." Jill P. Baumgaertner, writing in Christian Century, called The Homecoming Man "a masterful novel," and remarked that the work "is about men imprisoned, men who live together yet apart." Smith commented on the novel's religious and moral underpinnings, describing them as "sacred" and "Old Testament-like."
Cook's Home in Alfalfa: Stories is another collection that focuses on small-town life in the farm country of southern Ontario. In this book, the author takes a more humorous approach than in his previous works. In one story, a pastor's wife fights cabin fever by dreaming of an island rendezvous with a secret lover. In another story, three farmers pool their resources to buy a boar to breed with their sows, but their plan calls for the male hog to perform his duty on Sundays only. In yet another story, a genial wedding photographer's secrets are exposed when police arrive at his home on official business. The stories, which create a portrait of rural life's oddities, chronicle a year's events in Alfalfa as well as the town's colorful and eccentric characters.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, August-September, 1985, Gideon Forman, review of Cracked Wheat and Other Stories, p. 24.
Canadian Materials, March, 1991, Brenda Reed, review of The Homecoming Man, p. 116.
Christian Century, November 21-28, 1990, Jill P. Baumgaertner, review of The Homecoming Man, pp. 1103-1110.
Christianity Today, March 11, 1991, Margaret D. Smith, "A Pervasive Aroma," review of The Homecoming Man, p. 53.
New Statesman, December 6, 1985, Adewale Maja-Pearce, review of Cracked Wheat and Other Stories, p. 28.
Redeemer University College Web site, http://www.redeemer.on.ca/ (July 27, 2004), "Hugh Cook."
Writers' Union of Canada Web site, http://www.writersunion.ca/ (August 12, 2004), "Hugh Cook."