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).
Captivating and moving, The City of Tranquil Light transfixed all 14 of our First Impressions reviewers:
I loved this quietly powerful book, even though it was not "compelling" in the typical, cliff-hanging way (Denice B). I had a lot of things to do today, but the book held my attention to such a degree that I got up early and spent most of my day in my reading chair because I couldn't put this book down (Susan S). It's now almost mid-August. Since January 1, I have read 88 books, a list that includes contemporary literary fiction, quality non-fiction, and acknowledged classics. City of Tranquil Light is the best so far, and I look forward eagerly to Ms. Caldwell's next work (Darra W). (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
This is a sweet tale of an enduring love between this couple, their love of China and its people, and their love for their God. The novel will probably find its strongest readership among devotees of Christian fiction.
At times this novel seems more about rhetoric than relationships... but Katherine's diary entries are emotionally deft, capturing the romance and anxiety of cultural estrangement.
Andrea Barrett, author of The Air We Breathe
Deceptively quiet, this portrait of a couple in love with each other, their work, and their adopted country explores the deepest questions of faith while richly illuminating a lost time and place.
Jay Parini, author of The Last Station
A handful of books each year convince me of their firm grip on what, for want of a better word, I would call truth. Bo Caldwell has seized on this material, based on the experience of her grandparents, and somehow conjured a miraculous story, one full of passion, historical interest, and spiritual questing. The North China Plain is vividly evoked, and the main characters, Will and Katherine, will not easily be forgotten. City of Tranquil Light is a poem in prose form, and it will lift any reader's spirit as it lifted mine.
Ron Rash, author of Serena City of Tranquil Light is a remarkable evocation of another time and place as well as a deeply moving love story, but, most of all, Bo Caldwell's book is a profound meditation on the mysteries of belief. This novel is one that will linger in the reader's mind long after the last page is turned.
Gail Godwin, author of Unfinished Desires and Evensong City of Tranquil Light is just my kind of book. It is full of light, even at its darkest moments. I relished the hours spent with this dedicated and intrepid couple and will not soon forget them. Bo Caldwell has honored her missionary grandparents with her storytelling skills.
Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist's Daughter
What ardent, dazzling souls emerge from these American missionaries in China. Two great lovers hand their story back and forth, the husband writing from widowed old age, the wife speaking from the immediacy of a diary she kept during their decades in pre-Revolutionary China... A beautiful, searing book that leaves an indelible presence in the mind.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by C H. (Wauwatosa, WI) City of Tranquil Light This is a beautifully written book and one that I found captivating. I was captivated by the love of the missionary couple for each other, by their unrelenting belief and faith in what they were doing, and by their interest and selfless... Read More
Rated of 5
by Debra P. (Belmont, NC) Awsome Story! Reads like a travel journal written about an incredible love story containing a powerful message of faith and grace. The author does an incredible job placing one in the story and more than once I had tears of sadness or joy as I read about the... Read More
Rated of 5
by William E. (Honolulu, HI) City of Tranquil Light not so Tranquil The book is hardly tranquil in its portrayal of the tumultuous years of China in the 20th Century. The remarkable relationship of Will and Katherine is juxtaposed against the hue and cry of China, I found very effective. The novel is also a great... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jean O. (DePere, WI) City of Tranquil Light The beginning of the book went slowly for me. My interest increased as I read. The use of two voices was a nice way to get the perspectives of the main characters. The story is lovely and an excellent voice for examples of dedication and devotion.
Rated of 5
by Iris C. (Hawaii) City of Tranquil Light I was away, and just finished reading this book Rather than reiterate the story line so well stated by previous reviewers, I will confine my remarks to the author, Bo Caldwell. Caldwell is a talented writer. She has received several awards,... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jo K. (Saratoga, CA) City of Tranquil Light This is just the loveliest book I've read in a long time---Bo Caldwell has expertly written a very beautiful story of a young couple and their missionary work in China at the turn of the century that had me in the palm of her hand the whole time I... Read More
Religion in China is a hard topic to pin down. The country has been officially atheist since 1949 - a policy that was rigorously enforced through the early years of the People's Republic of China but was relaxed in the 1970s.
Since 1978 the Constitution of the People's Republic of China has guaranteed "freedom of religion" and the Chinese government recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Taoism (or Daoism), Islam, Catholicism and Protestanism. Religions that are accepted by the Chinese are treated with a fair degree of tolerance; however, new religious movements are, on the whole, considered cults and are banned and harshly repressed. This is likely in large part due to the history of religious cults threatening political stability. A notable example of which was the Taiping Rebellion of 1845-1864, led by Christian convert Hong Xiuquan. Hong, who believed himself to be the Son of God, established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Nanjing and proceeded to try to instill his brand of Christianity on much of southern China, which led to a civil war and the deaths of 20...
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