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Heaven Lake    by John Dalton order for
Heaven Lake
by John Dalton
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

First-time author John Dalton has written a big book about missionaries and life in China. After a slow beginning, the story moves into just what it is like to practice missionary work. Vincent is pretty well grounded in his faith but inexperienced. Gloria is not only inexperienced, she is unable to accept her proposed converts where they are.

These two 'Jesus teachers' get people to come to English classes and then end the time with Bible lessons. Meanwhile, Vincent is also teaching at a girls' school, where he meets and gets in trouble with a brash young teenager. This leads him to accept a strange proposition from a businessman. He is to travel to a remote part of China, to marry a beautiful young woman, and bring her back to Taiwan, where he can divorce her so the Chinese man can marry her. Vincent's travels through China lead him to many adventures and cause him finally to understand what his faith really is.

Dalton obviously has lived in China, and he has rendered the people and the landscape with great authority. We learn much about places that are not on a tourist's route. The map in the book is particularly helpful. The author's characterizations are well drawn, from Vincent's Scottish neighbor Alec to his prospective father-in-law Mr. Song. Finally, though, it is Vincent's ability to reach out to others, even through his cowardliness, that gives him the means by which he can salvage his own self-respect. Heaven Lake is definitely a worthwhile read.

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