"Richly drawn...delicate and revealing...a winning novel."
Los Angeles Times
"Absorbing...and compelling....[A] rich first novel about the mysteries of human yearning."
"Heaven Lake is a sort of Divine Comedy in reverse: a young man's trek through hell to get away from God. John Dalton has created such a compelling epic that the reader will gladly follow its hero, Vincent, on his scorching journey across China to find out how the world will punish and reward him. Our reward is this beautiful book."
Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto
"Impeccably written...a thorough work of operatic feeling and proportion...stunning."
San Francisco Chronicle
"[An] evocative, beautiful exploration of modern-day China....Powerful and rewarding reading."
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
A young American missionary experiences the darker side of human nature -- including his own -- in this intense, spellbinding novel.
Vincent Saunders is a fairly naïve 25-year-old when he leaves the homogeneity of his Illinois hometown to help establish a ministry in a small Taiwanese village. Dedicated to the spread of Christianity, Vincent believes in his ability to "see deeply into other people's lives and offer them a love and wisdom they might not even have known they were seeking." But far away from the trappings that helped anchor his faith, he succumbs to the physical allures of a female student and suffers a beating from her protective brother. Rather than repent and face the wrath of his new community, Vincent decides to help a wealthy Taiwanese businessman arrange an illicit marriage with a Chinese woman, and finds himself whisked off across the vast expanse of Mainland China. Vincent's travels take him through affluent cities and remote towns of squalor and misery, and provide him with ample time to ruminate on the new path his life has taken. And though Vincent has numerous opportunities to return home, he resists them.
A world traveler and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Dalton writes with clarity and precision and brings forth a novel that reflects both his deep familiarity with Asian culture and his exquisite craftsmanship. (Summer 2004 Selection)
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.
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. (Apr.) Forecast: The publisher is solidly behind this stellar effort, and Dalton will embark on a six-city author tour. This could be one of the spring's-if not the year's-biggest debuts. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This lengthy debut novel relates the journey of Vincent Saunders, a recent college graduate from the Midwest who travels to Taiwan to devote himself to Christian ministry. His na ve morality and self-righteousness are immediately shattered when he becomes involved in a sexual relationship with a younger student. When the affair is discovered, Vincent must leave his ministry and accept an offer from a businessman named Mr. Gwa to travel to the remote northwest corner of China and bring back his prospective bride, the beautiful Kai-ling. Vincent's journey gives him an up-close view of poverty that he never experienced in the Midwest. Because Kai-ling has become involved with another man, Vincent instead retrieves her young sister, Jia-ling, who is then forced into servitude for a friend of Mr. Gwa. Vincent comes to terms with his own wrongdoings by rescuing Jia-ling and discovers that the world is "a grayer, more complicated world than I ever imagined." 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 for all collections.-David A. Berone, Univ. of New Hampshire Lib., Durham Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.