From the book jacket: Naive 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. 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
Vincent initially says no but before long an ill-advised relationship with a local girl forces him to abandon the ministry house and sends him on a path toward spiritual reckoning - it also causes him to reconsider Gwa's extraordinary proposition. As Vincent travels further into China his journey really begins and he is forced to realize that the world is 'a grayer, more complicated world than I ever imagined'.
Comment: I thought this an excellent novel, almost on a par with the Poisonwood Bible. The only weakness I felt was that Vincent started out as such a dull character that it was a little difficult to be interested in him, but as the book progressed and some of his zeal rubbed off to be replaced with a little more understanding of humanity, he became a lot more likeable. BookBrowse subscribers appear to agree, of the 54 people who rated Heaven Lake (for the 2004 Awards, which will be announced soon), 60% rated it very good or excellent, and only 9% rated it below average.
'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.' -- Publishers Weekly.
This review is from the March 16, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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