The Desert Lake

The Desert Lake



About the book

Relationships columnist Barbara Crossie is invited to join a Canadian delegation to China, where she is to meet up with her long-distance lover, Josh. Deeply distressed when he fails to appear, Barbara continues with her companions on the Silk Road and eventually finds herself in the Taklimakan Desert, known as the Ocean of Death. It is there, by the astonishing desert lake, that she sees the way past her crisis.

About the author

Leith, Linda

Linda Leith was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. One of the most international of Canadian writers, she has lived in London, Basel, Brussels, Paris, Ottawa, Budapest and Montreal, where she founded and directs the hugely successful Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of London, England, and is Adjunct Professor of English at Concordia University in Montreal.

She is the author of seven books, including the literary memoirs Writing in the Time of Nationalism and Marrying Hungary, as well as three critically well-received novels, Birds of Passage, The Tragedy Queen, and The Desert Lake, all published by Signature Editions. She has also been published by Vehicule Press and ECW Press, as well as XYZ Editeur and Lemeac (in French), and Rad (in Serbian).


How could Josh do this to her? She had trusted him.

She looked around her, feeling an impulse to get up and move, but there was nowhere to go.

"What would you like to be able to say in Chinese?" Joie had her hand on Barbara's arm. She was sitting beside Barbara and had a dictionary in front of her.

There was something formidable about Joie. She seemed not only contented but wise. If she herself were in trouble, she would know just what to do. Of course, she probably never did get herself in trouble.

And if Barbara were to throw herself on Joie's mercy, ask her what to do?

No. That wouldn't work. She would resent anything Joie would say. She could feel herself bristle at the very thought of advice from Joie. Advice from anyone, for that matter. Barbara was going to have to figure this out for herself.


Barbara tried to concentrate, shook her head. It had never really occured to her that she might want to communicate in Chinese. French and English, OK. That was her daily life. But Chinese? Barbara could not think of a single word.

"There must be something you want to be able to say," Joie insisted.

Barbara couldn't think of what to say to Joie. Strong characters had this effect on Barbara. Joie was right, surely. There must be something Barbara would want to be able to say.

But what? Why couldn't she think of anything? Barbara felt hopeless. Why was she here? She would never have agreed to come here without Josh.

"Danger," she said finally, in desperation, pointing to the first word on her notebook page.
Joie peered at the word. "Danger," she read. Only then she continued reading. "And an opportunity."

Barbara closed her notebook, but it was too late.

"Danger and an opportunity?" Harry repeated in a very loud voice. "There's a whole debate about that."

People in the seats nearby turned around to see what he was talking about.

"Yes. What is that all about?" Joie asked, her finger moving down a dictionary page. "Don't tell me, Fu! I want to see if I can find it. Yes, here it is!" she exclaimed finally. "Wei ji."

Madame Fu clapped her hands.

"Wei is danger," Joie read, flipping the pages. "That much is for sure. And ji can be translated as opportunity. Or," she read, "as a crucial point. Chance. A pivotal moment. Crisis, in short."


Leith's new book, The Desert Lake, is about a Montreal journalist on a trip to China. Though it's a serious novel about a 30-something woman struggling with her personal life, it's leavened with humour. The endearing heroine seems at times… >>

Concordia Journal

A Place for Everything 
For Linda Leith, writing novel and running Blue Metropolis is just a matter of making time 

Ice pellets are raining down on Montreal the afternoon I arrive at Linda Leith's home in… >>

— Faustus Salvador Montreal Review of Books

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