City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell, Henry Holt, Fiction, 2010, 287 pages.
Synopsis: Will Kiehn is an “ordinary man,” seemingly destined for life as a humble farmer in the Midwest, when, having felt a call from God, he moves to the vast North China Plain in 1906. There he is surprised by love and weds a strong and determined fellow missionary, Katherine, who is also a dedicated nurse.
Early in their marriage Will and Katherine find themselves witnesses to the crumbling of a more than two-thousand-year-old dynasty, which plunges the country into years of civil war. As they work to improve the lives of the people in Kuang P’ing Ch’eng-City of Tranquil Light, a place they come to love-they face hardships they could not have imagined: a personal loss that shakes them both to the core, the constant threat of bandits, the physical dangers and tragedies of warlord China. But while they are continually tested both spiritually and physically, they are also rewarded in ways that leave them forever changed.
Told through Will and Katherine’s alternating viewpoints-and inspired by the lives of the author’s maternal grandparents-City of Tranquil Light is a tender and elegiac portrait of a young marriage set against the backdrop of a beautiful but torn nation. A deeply spiritual book, it shows how those who work to teach others often have the most to learn and is further evidence that Bo Caldwell writes “vividly and with great historical perspective” (San Jose Mercury News).
My thoughts: I am starting to enjoy this kind of book. A fiction written about the author’s missionary grandparents is an appealing subject. I love to learn about other countries and cultures, and this showed me much about China. It was eloquently described as a graceful yet often tragic land, filled with many tales of abundance, famine, beauty, and loss. The characters were tangible, filled with longing, regret, and compassion. I will certainly add Caldwell’s other book (The Distant Land of My Father) to my reading list. The only disappointment I had was the lack of an account of major events included in the book sans fictional details.
My rating: 4 stars
I received this book free from TBB Media. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.
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