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Heaven Lake

A Novel

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


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.

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. He attended the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop in the early 1990s and was awarded two fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown as well as a James Michener/Paul Engle Award for his novel-in-progress, Heaven Lake. He presently lives with his wife in North Carolina.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 22, 2003 – A starred or boxed review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.HEAVEN LAKEJohn Dalton. Scribner, $26 (464p) 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. Reminiscent of the work of Graham Greene and Norman Rush, but possessing a quirky innocence and gravitas all its own, the novel is crammed with heady matters, clashes of cultures, ill-considered schemes and unrequited love. Vincent Saunders, a man with strong religious beliefs, leaves his tiny Illinois hamlet to take a job as a Christian missionary in Taiwan. As the only volunteer in the mid-sized city of Toulio, he establishes and runs the ministry house, while teaching English classes to make ends meet. His Toulio acquaintances are an odd bunch: fellow boarder Alec, a foul-mouthed, hashish-smoking Scot; Shao-fei, the crippled son of Vincent's landlady; Gloria, a late-arriving volunteer with a passion for Chinese calligraphy and proselytizing. There is also Mr. Gwa, a local businessman, who offers Vincent $10,000 to go to mainland China, find the lovely young girl who has long bewitched the rich merchant, and pretend to marry her in order to bring her back. At first refusing to take the job on moral grounds, Vincent is forced to reconsider after he succumbs to the aggressive advances of Trudy, a wayward teenage girl in one of his English classes, which costs him his job and standing in the community. Rethinking Mr. Gwa's offer, he heads for China to bring back Kai-Ling, the man's bride. It is during this memorable journey to the heart of modern China that Vincent comes of age, emotionally and spiritually, enduring thieves, bizarre encounters and false promises from a reluctant bride with a lover on the side. Artfully pacing the series of revelations that rock the book on its way to a surprising conclusion, Dalton revises conventional assumptions about contemporary China and collective cultural views of love and marriage. This is a noteworthy first novel by a writer to watch.

Customer Reviews

A fantastic escape

I read this book about 4 years ago in hard copy attracted by the travel adventure theme of the book. Who can not be interested in the story of a young American man teaching English in Asia, falling in love with the beautiful girls he meets, only to be caught up in a cross-China adventure to retrieve a beautiful village girl betrothed to an underworld crime boss, falling in love with the girl and needing to find a way to save both their skins. It's a great ride - so great, I bought the book on iTunes just so I could reread it and highlight my favorite parts. You really won't be sorry with this one. Read it on a trip to Taiwan or China for even greater enjoyment.

Heaven Lake
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Feb 15, 2011
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Print Length: 464 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings