Heaven Lake is about many things: China, God, passion, friendship, travel, even the reckless smuggling of hashish. But above all, this extraordinary debut is about the mysteries of love.
Vincent Saunders has graduated from college, left his small hometown in Illinois, and arrived in Taiwan as a Christian volunteer. After opening a ministry house, he meets a wealthy Taiwanese businessman, Mr. Gwa, who tells Vincent that on his far travels to western China he has discovered a beautiful young woman living near the famous landmark Heaven Lake. Elegant, regal, clever, she works as a lowly clerk in the local railway station. Gwa wishes to marry her, but is thwarted by the political conflict between China and Taiwan. In exchange for a sum of money, will Vincent travel to China on Gwa's behalf, take part in a counterfeit marriage, and bring her back to Taiwan for Gwa to marry legitimately? Vincent, largely innocent about the ways of the world and believing that marriage is a sacrament, says no. Gwa is furious.
Soon, though, everything Vincent understands about himself and his vocation in Taiwan changes. Supplementing his income from his sparsely attended Bible-study classes, he teaches English to a group of enthusiastic schoolgirls -- and it is his tender, complicated friendship with a student that forces Vincent to abandon the ministry house and sends him on a path toward spiritual reckoning. It also causes him to reconsider Gwa's extraordinary proposition.
What follows is not just an exhilarating -- sometimes harrowing -- journey to a remote city in China, but an exploration of love, passion, loneliness, and the nature of faith. John Dalton's exquisite narrative arcs across China as gracefully as it plumbs the human heart, announcing a major new talent.
An excellent novel, almost on a par with the Poisonwood Bible. The only weakness is that Vincent starts off as such a dull character that it is a difficult to stay interested in his development. But as the book progresses and his zeal tarnishes, he became a lot more likable. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Washington Post - Larry Tritten
Dalton, who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Jen Jen Chang, spent several years in Taiwan, where he himself was once offered $10,000 to become a surrogate husband. Fluent in Mandarin, he knows China and shows it to us with meticulousness and enthusiasm. If Vincent is a less than fascinating character, the story of his adventures in this intriguing country captivate our attention and hold it throughout.
Barnes & Noble
A young American missionary experiences the darker side of human nature -- including his own -- in this intense, spellbinding novel.
Sober and searching yet sublimely comic, this impressive debut about a modern-day missionary in Taiwan charts a journey away from reflexive faith and toward a broader understanding of the world and its ways. This is a noteworthy first novel by a writer to watch.
Booklist - Kristine Huntley
Dalton's debut novel is an evocative, beautiful exploration of modern-day China...Powerful and rewarding reading.
Library Journal - David A Berone
Vincent's passage from a sheltered, religious life into reality is filled with dramatic episodes and unique characters that make this an exciting page-turner. Recommended.
John Dalton was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri,
the youngest of seven children. Upon graduation from college, he
received a plane ticket to travel around the world, and so began an
enduring interest in travel and foreign culture. During the late 1980s
he lived in Taiwan for several years and traveled in Mainland China and
other Asian countries.
A few months after arriving in Taiwan he was propositioned by a
man willing to pay him $10,000 if he traveled to the mainland, married a
woman and brought her back with him. He didn't take him up on the offer!
News: Last week, Dalton was awarded the 1st prize for fiction in Barnes and Nobel's 12th annual Discover New Writers
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