City of Tranquil Light

City of Tranquil Light

by Bo Caldwell
4.5 21


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City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

"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).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312641801
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/25/2011
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 479,811
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Bo Caldwell is the author of the national bestseller The Distant Land of My Father. Her short fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Story, Epoch, and other literary journals. A former Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University, she lives in Northern California with her husband, novelist Ron Hansen.

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City of Tranquil Light 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
mrsred49 More than 1 year ago
As the story begins Will Kiehn (his real name) Kung P'ei Te (his Chinese name) is in an retirement home in California for retired missionaries. As he sits and looks out his window he remembers all the years he and his deceased wife served in China and witnessed to these people. Then he picks up his wedding picture and begins to remember. In 1909 Will and his wife, Katherine arrived in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng (City of Tranquil Light), in the North China Plain to establish a new Mennonite church. They had no idea that they would serve there for twenty-five years and came to think as China as their home, more so than America. Will preaches the Word of God while Katherine provides medical care in her clinic. They did not so in and try to change the Chinese people to their way of thinking but they wore the same type of clothing and ate the same food, so they were highly respected. They lived through a lot: personal losses, bandits, famine, earthquakes and civil war. Although a historical novel, thankfully, Caldwell only includes enough facts to place her characters within the context of China's historical events. So that in itself makes for a good read. Some friends of ours served as Missionaries in China, India, and they served in this same way. I have heard them talk about this same city, so my friend had written a book about the ways of the people and the hardships so this was a good read for me, it followed up on what he had written. This book was sent to me by The B&B Media Group for review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating for its American and Chinese characters and their evolving relationship and respect for one another. Wonderful portrait of a small Chinese village over the years of change. Recommended for men and women readers. And yes, book club discussions too.
samcivy More than 1 year ago
City of Tranquil Light, a Novel (National Bestseller) Bo Caldwell ©2010 St. Martin’s Griffin, NY ISBN 978-0-8050-9228-8 283 pp. (ppbk) plus reading group guide, author intro and pictures For forty years, a young Mennonite couple, Will and Kathryn, who met and married in North China, lived among villagers, met their health needs, started a church, orphanage and school and saved hundreds of natives from death while enduring amazing difficulties themselves. This is a story of love, courage, persistence and life in a rapidly changing nation. Although written as a novel, the story sounds so real readers will feel themselves in China among Chinese people of various strata. Readers will live through famines, wars, injustices, joys, sorrow, friendships and beauty along with Will and Kathryn. Eventually, with the Communist take-over, Will and Kathryn must return to Los Angeles where they work for many years with a Chinese-American church. The story ends with Will’s last twenty years without his beloved wife. The last few pages are so beautifully written they feel like the best part of an entire excellent story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story based on facts and real life experiences. Great read.
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iblog4books More than 1 year ago
Bo Caldwell's City of Tranquil Light is a riveting story of Will and Katherine, missionaries to China. Will and Katherine cross the ocean in their early 20s to take the Gospel to the people of China. The novel describes their life in China, their ministry to their Chinese neighbors, the birth and growth of their church, and their faith in God that kept them steadfast through heartache, trials, famine, bandits, death, and war. Through everything, they come to love China as "home." Inspired by her maternal grandparents' missionary service in China, Will and Katherine's story is ultimately about the power and sovereignty of God. The writing style is unique in that the author successfully tells the story from both Will's and Katherine's point of view. The bulk of the story is told as a "memoir" of sorts by an elderly Will reflecting back over the course of his life. Caldwell weaves in Katherine's journal entries to fill out the rest of the picture. It reads like an excellently written biography. I caught myself several times thinking of the characters as real people. Additionally, Caldwell's vivid description made me feel as though I had actually been to China simply by reading the book. I highly recommend this wonderful story. Bo Caldwell has made it to my must-read list! I received a free copy of this book from The B&B Media Group in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
Would you be willing to risk your life to spread the gospel of Jesus? Will Kiehn is just that ordinary man seemingly destined for life as a humble farmer in the Midwest, when Edward Geisler comes to his church one day to share his testimony of being a missionary in China. After returning home and finding out that Edward is coming to dinner, Will isn't sure if the strange feeling inside is God's calling or guilt. When plowing his fields one day, he kneels to pray like he does every morning, and immediately feels the peace of God come upon him and give him confirmation that he is calling him to leave home and go to China with Edward. Upon heading out with Edward on a ship bound for China, Will meets Katherine Friesen, a Deaconess from a hospital in Cleveland, who has also made the commitment to go to China. During the rough voyage that test more than their personal stamina, across open waters, poor living conditions, Will and Katherine become united in more than their ministry, they become married. 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 despite the crumbling of more than a two-thousand year dynasty that plunges the country into years of civil war in the early 1900's. They face hardships they could have never imagined: a personal loss that shakes them both to the core, the constant threat of bandits, the physical dangers and tragedies of warlord China. They are tested both spiritually and physically, and they are also rewarded in ways that will leave them forever changed. This story is one of marriage, of leaving one home and finding another, and of faith. I received this book City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell compliments of B & B Media Group for my honest review. I was deeply touched as I read the story from both her grandparents perspectives of the lives that they both lived during China in the 1900's when the country was in utter turmoil. This is their memoir and shows just how our much our faith can grown in the midst of turmoil and adversity. This one rates a 5 out of 5 stars.
kittycrochettwo More than 1 year ago
"City Of Tranquil Light" is the story of missionaries Will and Katherine Keihn. While it is a story of their missionary work in China, it is also a love story between two people who were married for 37 years.While life was never easy, dealing with sickness, a war torn country, and the death of their daughter, they never gave up, and never lost their faith in God. Will is 81, and living in a retirement home for missionaries in California, as he unfolds the journey of his life doing missionary work in China. Growing up as a Mennonite farm boy in Oklahoma, he never imagined himself as a missionary, but when God called him into the field he heeded the call, so at the age of twenty-one he finds himself on his way to China. He met his wife Katherine on that trip and thus begins their remarkable journey as missionaries in China. The story is told from two peoples perspectives, Will and his wife Katherine, whose voice is heard from the pages of her diary. Will says "He never read her diary while she was alive but knows the pages by heart," a statement in which you can feel the longing he feels for his deceased wife, and partner Katherine. While this story is a work of fiction, it is actually inspired by the authors grandparents' missionary work in China. While I was drawn into the story of Will and Katherine I also enjoyed learning a bit about Mennonite culture and getting a historical glimpse of China. A beautiful love story, filled with faith and hope. A story that is well worth reading! I read the hardback version of this book. Even though I was provided a review copy of this book by B&B Media Group for review it in no way alters my opinion of this book.
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell is the fictionalized version of the author's grandparents' time as missionaries in China. Will Kiehn was happy with his life as a farmer's son, until he hears a missionary from China speaking of his time over there, and Will feels a call deep within his soul that he is unable to deny. He quickly falls in love with fellow missionary, Katherine Frieson, and eventually the two marry and begin their love affair with the people of the small Chinese town of Kuang P'ing Ch'eng, City of Tranquil Light. Their ministry begins slowly as they try to overcome the distrust of foreigners, but Katherine's healing skills and Will's love for people soon allows them to make the town their true home. Through bandits, war, earthquakes, and famine, they care for these people and bring them the love of God, despite their own terrible personal losses. Caldwell's writing alternates between Will and Katherine's narration, giving the reader a true view of the couple's triumphs and tragedies. Their tenacity in the midst of unimaginable hardship is inspiring, and Caldwell's writing is evocative and beautiful. She brings to life the China this couple fell in love with, and eventually loved enough to sacrifice their own happiness for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1966 widower Will Koehn looks back at his life with his wife Katherine who died twenty years earlier. In 1906, Will an Oklahoma farmer and Katherine Friesen a Cleveland deaconess met on a ship traveling to China. Both were Mennonite missionaries filled with enthusiasm and fear. They became companions and later a married couple as she offered her nursing skills and he the word of the Lord. The pair was there when the revolution occurred culminating with the rise of Kuomintang even as other missionaries are violently exiled. The duo stays through drought, famine, earthquakes and winters requiring five thick coats; as long as Will and Kate had each other and God, they can help others cope with any human atrocity and any natural disaster. This is an entertaining early twentieth century epic that provides a vast loook of life in China. The dedicated couple endures all sorts of external problems, but though at times it seems over the top as they adhere to their mission and each other in an almost superhero detached way, their love for God and each other keeps them strong and going. Ironically the passion in this engaging historical comes with Katherine's diary as she invokes feelings for the plight of their Chinese neighbors and for each other. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I gave this book to my Mother who is an avid reader. She said she couldn't put it down. Because she reads a lot, and especially stories about people's lives, it is a real compliment when she likes a book a lot. She enjoyed it very much.
jewelknits More than 1 year ago
Gorgeous! Just that word .. it's a gorgeous story. The deep and true love and strength and faith through unimaginable poverty and hardships and loss ... This was a book that you really didn't want to put down. I felt myself drawn into these missionaries' lives (not as though I'd want to live them, however, as I'm a bit too used to running water, electricity, and food to want to live their lives), but feeling as they felt and seeing what strengths each of these characters had was an awesome journey. Both Will and Katherine are Mennonite missionaries who felt a call to serve when they were extremely young. Although they didn't know each other, in 1906, they joined Edward (Katherine's brother-in-law) on a journey across the sea with 3 others to serve the people of China. Not only must they both learn Chinese (an extremely difficult language to master), they cope with both expected and unexpected hardships, including people who look at most foreign missionaries as trying to "change them" and infiltrate their culture. They fall in love with each other, with their new country and with it's people. As Will ministers to the people, Katherine tends to them as a healer. This story is a sweeping look at a country in the middle of an epic upheaval. The Emperor will be overthrown, and decades of civil war will follow. Although Will and Katherine only plan to stay for a few years, their stay turns into decades as well, and this story is told through both Will's eyes and through the words in Katherine's diary. It is a plain-speak, but heartbreakingly poignant, look at many facets and levels of love. From the love of a husband and wife, to the love of God, to the love of a true friend, and even to the love of someone who should be an enemy. This book has bandits, and treachery, laughter and misery, loss and redemption, and it will leave you feeling good at the end. My only con: (and I hope that this is corrected in the final version), is that the foreword states that this story is based on the lives of the author's grandparents, although in reading the book, you find out that they didn't HAVE grandchildren. I think the publisher synopsis works best in stating that it is "inspired" by their lives. (I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this title from the publisher to facilitate my review)
onedesertrose More than 1 year ago
Will Kiehn was a young Mennonite man struggling with his faith, eventually relinquishing his life and will to God after hearing Edward Geisler, missionary to China, speak at his church. Receiving his father's blessing, he followed the call of God to China in 1906. Also recruited was Katherine Friesen, Edward's sister-in-law, who had schooling in nursing, along with two more recruits who felt the call of God to work in China. This is a novel based on the true life of the author's maternal grandparents, Peter and Anna Schmidt Kiehn, and her grandmother's older sister, Nellie, and her husband, Henry Bartel. When I think of 2010 missionaries, I think of them flying to their destinations, with access to cell phones, computers, vehicles, etc. City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell is about missionary service in the harshest of times: a poor country with little to no amenities, drought, civil unrest, bandits, personal loss and danger, and outdated transportation that took months instead of hours to arrive. This is a love story between Will and Katherine Kiehn, Kung P'ei Te and Kung Mei Li in Mandarin Chinese, as well as their years of missionary service in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng, City of Tranquil Light. Bo does an excellent job of weaving a story of daunting circumstances, with extreme tests of Will and Katherine's faith, their trust in God and their tenacious spirits challenged during some of their most difficult times. Her book is a heart-wrenching, yet love-filled story of the grace of God in time of need, but not always the way they expected. I love her choice of alternating voices of Will and Katherine, written in journal format. One gets to 'hear the heart' behind the story of both husband and wife through all that they endure. Bo elaborates on the historical changes in China, which are numerous and calamitous, including their barbaric methods of punishment. Yet through all this, she shows Will and Katherine's ministry of the love of God through their physical and medical assistance and preaching the Word, working for change in the Chinese peoples' lives, both friend and foe alike, willingly and sometimes not so willingly. I was truly touched by the intimacy of Will and Katherine's lives, friends, love, and devotion. A recommended reading for anyone considering missionary work. Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.