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 non-fiction 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.