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City of Tranquil Light: A Novel by Bo…

City of Tranquil Light: A Novel

by Bo Caldwell

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Another lovely book about China by this great author - This one was based on her grandparents and their missionary work in a small Chinese city in the early 1900s - The story was always engrossing and the marital relationship was inspiringly tender and loving -

I was moved by the couple's faith which was challenged in many ways as they felt called to live and work in a strange and often harsh new world filled with hardship, suffering, and ultimately with great reward - The author did a beautiful job of presenting loving people who lived a deeply spiritual life yet expressed their humanity, failures and successes fully. ( )
  njinthesun | Apr 25, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I loved Caldwell's first book, so I was excited to get an ARC in the mail. This book, like the first is about family and China. In this case she uses her grandparent's experiences as missionaries as a premise and writes a story from there.
The book is Narrative from Will and Diary excerpts from Katherine. It tells about love, loss, hardship, and victories living in China in early 20th century.
I wasn't sure I was going to like it because I'm not sure about missionaries. I believe cultures should be able to keep their identities and customs. That is what makes the world so interesting. But I see the good they did, showing love, forgiveness, healing, and compassion. The people were drawn to them because of that and I feel good about that.
Caldwell is honest; brutal and gentle.
I enjoyed this book more than I expected and am waiting for her next book. ( )
  jenngv | Jun 25, 2015 |
This is a story about the best of humanity. To make "good" characters seem real, believable, and likable is a challenge and Caldwell has come up to the task. Usually interesting characters display all kinds of character flaws. Will's main character flaw seems to be a bit of pride mixed with a bit of impatience. Katherine's weakness is physical. These are probably two of the most genuinely good people I have ever encountered in fiction.

I thoroughly appreciated the author's portrayal of the Mennonite faith and how that faith was put into action. Although my acquaintances have never made the sacrifices required of Will and Katherine, I have been fortunate to encounter a number of individuals who exhibit the same kind of peace, humility, and dedication. This story is totally believable and told without the least bit of cynicism. This is a story about individuals who put their faith into action told by an author who refuses to preach or resort to being didactic. It's a straightforward story about two individuals who first love God, then learn to love each other, and eventually love a country and people far different than the close Mennonite culture where they were raised.

I gave this book a four simply because I wasn't particularly fond of the story told alternately by Will and Katherine. I suppose this gave the reader "both sides" of the story, but to my mind, it was just awkward. However, good read and highly recommended. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 22, 2013 |
This book is about two missionaries who spent many decades in a small, Chinese village beginning in the early Twentieth Century. It is the story of their enduring love, their love for China, and their faith.

I have to say that, somehow, the story felt genuine. The feelings expressed by the characters felt real, as did their actions. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Dec 29, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As a young man, a Mennonite from Oklahoma, farmer Will Kiehn hears a missionary from China speak and after much soul searching feels called by God to join a group of newly recruited missionaries on the North China Plain. On his journey out to China, he meets Katherine Friesen, a nurse in training, the sister-in-law of the mission leader, and his eventual wife. Between them, Will and Katherine strive to follow God's plan for their lives even as they live through the upheavals and civil wars sweeping through China in the early years of the twentieth century.

Will starts a church in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng, the City of Tranquil Light, to minister to the Chinese people and lead them to the Christian God while Katherine ministers to their bodies. Will and Katherine are devoted to their calling and to each other. They are of the opinion that the way they live their lives, living godly lives, will show others the way to God rather than actively trying to convert the Chinese people they meet. And they are steadfast in their beliefs even as they weather great tragedies and terrible tests of their faith: losing their young daughter to dysentry, famine, Will's lengthy kidnapping by a robber bandit. They live through great changes in China, the crumbling of the last Chinese dynasty, the emergence of Chiang Kai-Shek, and the creation of the Kuomintang. They survive the reprisals against foreigners and missionaries in particular, never losing their deep love for their adopted land.

Told through Will's memories now that he's an old man in a nursing home and Katherine's diary entires from their many years in the country, the novel presents their faith and beliefs in non-preachy ways. The characters, based on the author's grandparents, are good, solid people whose sense of purpose, strength, and trust are the foundation for their various beautiful love stories: love for each other, love for God, love for the Chinese people, and love of place. This is a gorgeously rendered homage to Caldwell's grandparents that will resonate quietly for a long time. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jul 7, 2012 |
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For Kate and Scotty and Ron, real and constant blessings in my life -- with love
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Suppose it is an autumn day, fine and clear and cool.
… my wife’s diary, a thin volume I never read while she was alive but whose pages I now know by heart. Reading her sporadic entries is bittersweet, for while they bring our years together to life, they also show me my flaws and the ways in which I hurt her, unintentional though they war. But her pages make it seem that she is near, and if the price I pay for that closeness is regret it is a bargain still, albeit a painful one.
Katherine, there are practices in this country that you will dislike, I assure you. But some of these we must accept as they are. We are here to offer the people the gift of faith, not remake their way of life, even when the change seems necessary and right. It’s a question of choosing your battles. Remember that we’re guests, and uninvited ones at that.
… Chung Chiu Chieh, the Moon Festival, which is a celebration of the autumn harvest and the end of summer… The people see the moon’s round shape as representing the family circle, and they gather with their relations to stare up at the full moon together. This perhaps sounds silly, but it isn’t; it’s beautiful, and it is my favorite night of the year.
Many people have left the city. … Many others have come to us; each day at our gate we find a dozen or more refugees … Perhaps half of our refugees are infants and children, their ribs showing through their ragged tunics, their eyes sunken and hollow. Some are orphans whose parents have starved to death; others have been abandoned by parents who can’t feed them and decide it’s better to leave them here than take them along, only to bury them down the road. The parents bring their children to the compound gates then just disappear, or they plead with us first then tell their children goodbye and turn and walk away as the children cry and try to run after them while we hold them back. It is horrible, and I wake each morning with dread.

Not all of these desperate parents bring their daughters and sons to us; some send them to live with relatives, others tie them to trees and leave them there. Still others sell their offspring, either because they want the money or as a way to keep the children alive. At first this was a clandestine affair, but now the selling of children, especially young girls, is a brisk business with its own stand at the market, where anyone can buy a girl for three dollars.
Tonight before I came upstairs I stood in the doorway, looking at the dozens of cots and baskets and the sleeping children and babies that they held. The room smelled of them, a dusky, heavy scent, and the sound of their breathing was like a distant ocean. After seeing so much hardship and death in the last six months, I have found the nearness of the children to be a salve. … Since returning from furlough, the word “childless” has taken up residence in my mind. It sits in the room of my thoughts like an unwelcome guest. But tonight I found a different word lingering my mind: “childfull”. I’m no longer childless; I’m childfull, for although I have not one child of my own, I have the unexpected gift of a hundred who are like my own, a fact that fills my cracked heart with purpose.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805092285, Hardcover)

"What ardent, dazzling souls emerge from these American missionaries in China . . . A beautiful, searing book that leaves an indelible presence in the mind." —Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist's Daughter

Will Kiehn is seemingly destined for life as a humble farmer in the Midwest when, having felt a call from God, he travels to the vast North China Plain in the early twentieth-century. There he is surprised by love and weds a strong and determined fellow missionary, Katherine. They soon find themselves witnesses to the crumbling of a more than two-thousand-year-old dynasty that plunges the country into decades of civil war. As the couple works to improve the lives of the people of Kuang P'ing Ch'eng— City of Tranquil Light, a place they come to love—and face incredible hardship, will their faith and relationship be enough to sustain them?

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 the shifting face 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).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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 of 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"--Cover, p. 2.… (more)

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