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One Foot in HeavenOne Foot in Heaven (Coteau Books, 2005; Amazon, 2013)

 Mennolit Debut is Not Lite. It’s risky murdering a child in the first pages of a work of fiction. Make it too real, too distressing, and readers will want to escape; soft-pedal it, and sentiment debases the incalculable loss. In his debut story collection, poet and veterinarian David Waltner-Toews delicately treads a knife edge, leaving us shaken and primed for more.” – The Globe and Mail (July 16, 2005)

A brilliantly-written collection of linked short stories presenting the interconnected lives, and world views, of several Mennonite families in Winnipeg and northern Alberta. One Foot in Heaven opens and closes with Prom Koslowski, a character who flees murderous bandits in Russia, gains twin babies and loses their mother on a torturous journey through the mountains into India, and finally makes a life for himself and his children in rural northern Alberta. His children go to Mennonite high school in Winnipeg, and go on to missionary and other work in their adult lives. In various ways, they are both drawn to the South East Asian region of their beginnings. They interact with a host of other characters as they grow – the innocent veterinarian Ab Dueck, the enigmatic Jael Freed, Ab’s best friend George, whose own spiritual views differ so oddly despite arising from the same roots. In the fashion of much Mennonite writing, David Waltner-Toews uses both humour and pathos to present his characters juggling matters of the flesh and of the spirit in their quest for the true purpose of their lives and the best way to serve their god.

Fear of LandingFear of Landing (Poisoned Pen Press, 2008)

“David Waltner-Toews is a genuine polymath. He’s a published poet, author of books on subjects as diverse as Mennonite history and exotic animal-to-human diseases. He’s a professor of population medicine at the University of Guelph, an epidemiologist, a founder of Veterinarians Without Borders and the Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health. In his free time, he’s written his first mystery novel, and it’s terrific.” – Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail

Publishers Weekly – One of the nine best mysteries published in 2008.

On the islands of Java and Bali in the early 1980s, Western governments are pouring millions of dollars into development schemes even as Indonesian strongman President Suharto violently stifles dissent.

For Canadian veterinarian Abner Dueck, the spice islands are an exotic locale for the seemingly mundane work of examining dead cows and working with old friends. Duecks life changes abruptly when some of the cows die under mysterious circumstances, and he meets a mysterious young Chinese woman; soon after, two of his friends – one Canadian and one Indonesian – are murdered.

Mennonite Dueck, marshals the energy to battle Indonesian politics and the attempts of local businessmen, military rulers, and international advisors to manipulate development projects to their own ends.

And to unravel the mysterious deaths of both cattle and people, Dueck must first understand the long shadow that the 1966 massacres cast on Indonesian life, as well as the complexities of their music, and the demands and intrigues of love and conspiracy, death and mystery, and of course, cultural heritage and personal identity.

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