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Baptism in Siberia   -   Christopher Sarton


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Baptism in Siberia 
A Novel
by Christopher Sarton   

UK Price £12.99     $14.95 in US
Format: Paperback
Size: 6 x 9
Pages: 248
ISBN: 0-595-25085-8
Publication Date: Oct-2002

A powerful, thought-provoking journey toward spiritual truth, Sarton's novel is a unique exploration of several major religions of the world.

Tragedy often provides the vehicle we need to motivate ourselves to spiritual exploration. Such is the case for the protagonist in Christopher Sarton’s stirring new novel, Baptism in Siberia. When unjustly accused of a humiliating crime, a young man is forced to abandon his life and all that is familiar to him. Seeking refuge with the only two people on his side—Sangita, who is Hindu, and Susan, who was raised Christian—the fugitive takes comfort in their friendship but is also deeply moved by their incredible if not opposing religious beliefs. When he is forced to resume his life on the run, the young man commences on a remarkable journey—one that will lead him not only to fascinating discoveries but also to a powerful reunion with Sangita and Susan at Lake Baikal in Siberia, where the most amazing aspect of their spiritual quest awaits them…

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Also by Christopher Sarton:

First Year Teacher
by Christopher Sarton

UK price: £14.95    US price: $16.95
Format: Paperback
Size : 6 x 9
Pages: 250
ISBN: 0-595-31267-5
Published: Mar-200

Anyone ever engaged in teaching, whether as student or teacher, will find this novel fascinating. Also, the erudite input of knowledge and argument, from black holes to reincarnation, will keep the reader turning the pages of this fascinating account by a British first-year teacher in the ’sixties, who tells of how he overcame the underhand resistance of ‘redneck’ teachers and wins the favour of faculty and students at an independent secondary school in rural America.

Books by Christopher Sarton

Baptism in Siberia, 2002, Writers Club Press, ISBN: 0-595-250858 (pbk)
0-595-650309 (Hardback)

The Terrorist Hunter, 2002, Scotforth Books, ISBN: l-904244-216 (Hardback)

The First Year Teacher, 2004, iUniverse Inc, ISBN: 0-595-312675 (pbk)
0-595-767044 (Hardback)

For readers who like their private journeys with authors to provide a variety of vicarious new experiences, plus unexpected explorations of ideas that seriously need to be examined, these books by Christopher Sarton should not be missed.

Each of his multi-layered novels presents the reader with a wide range of seemingly disparate themes, which in his narratives lock together like the pieces of a completed jigsaw. Their ranges include: lethal violence and religious philosophy; somewhat raunchy sex, and travel in remote regions; yacht sailing, and classroom teaching. The list could go on and on.

To encompass such variety while maintaining continuity of narration, the novels are necessarily fast-paced, and thus are possibly better read in short bursts. But if the reader prefers to curl up for some time with a good book he should be ready, with these novels, for constant and adroit gear changing in his perceptivity. And, whether he is a gear-shifter or a short-burster, he will find that these books will repay re­reading -~ for their pace and variety are likely to leave some things to be discovered in later readings. The re-reading indeed will be no hardship, for the tone of the writing has been described as captivating.

Beyond being written in the first person, these novels seem at first to have nothing in common. The narrators themselves are markedly different: one is anxious and rather diffident (in Hunter), another is bold and assertive (in Teacher) and the other is socially so unacceptable that his name never gets revealed (in Baptism). Moreover, the themes and venues of the narratives differ. One, which also includes yachting, is a travelogue featuring first the USA, then China, Mongolia, and Siberia (Baptism). One is an army story, set in the Malayan jungle (Hunter); the other is a school story in the USA, with a side trip to Guyana (Teacher).

But in fact the books share important characteristics. Like most novels, they recount personal interactions and responses of their characters to events. Nothing especially unusual in any of this, of course. It is the stuff of novels.

However, one characteristic, which these novels share, must surely be unique to them: as a periodically recurring theme they feature well-informed discussions of the world’s major religions. This is done incidentally and colloquially, without advocacy or moralising. No one ever claims final certainty. All are intent on seeking knowledge through researching and reflecting, not by taking instruction. Whichever character momentarily leads the hunt does so only like a questing hound, with the rest intent on taking the lead when they catch the scent. Indeed, no specific leading is done – only a gently guided exploration that is the real theme of these novels. Occasionally a narrator does a lot of thinking, but then he shares it only with the reader.

Throughout all three books this exploration is dovetailed into the context of the activities and events and struggles with which the narratives are mainly concerned. Some readers may wish indeed to skip the religious bits – but doing so would be like eating the icing and marzipan while leaving the rest of the cake.

This presentation of religious concepts has a more logical sequence if the books are read in a particular order: a mainly intellectual and scientific approach characterises Teacher, as the title suggests; Baptism, again as the title suggests, is the most overtly religious of these books (this being offset by a raunchiness that is not present in the others); Hunter provides some element of review, besides featuring additional examination of Buddhism, Islam, and the Christian mystics. However, even for readers interested in the religion angle, it is not crucial for the books to be read in this order. A check on publication dates will show that the author did not write them in the sequence recommended here.

Readers more interested in accompanying the author on a series of vicarious experiences may have concern for the historical chronology. Regarding this, the earliest setting is that of Hunter, the ending of which coincides with the coming of Elizabeth II to the throne. Teacher is set in the time of the Vietnam war and student revolutionism. And Baptism, less reflective than the others of historical background, depicts experiences around the early 1990s.

Wide ranging within the last half century, and also regarding places, experiences, themes, and characters, these novels have a lucid style that makes them seem condensed. But this means only that they will yield more on further reading, as the experiences recounted are multi-faceted. And as for the expositions of religion, these are about a topic that, as the author says, is either foolishness, by turns comforting and inflammatory or else, since it concerns the ineffable and eternal, infinitely more important than anything else. There is just no in-between.