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City of Tranquil Light: A Novel

City of Tranquil Light: A Novel

4.5 21
by Bo Caldwell

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"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


"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).

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Caldwell (The Distant Land of My Father) draws on the lives of her grandparents for source material for her second novel. The story is told in two voices. In 1966, Will, who has been widowed for 20 years, remembers his former life with his wife, Katherine, starting with their meeting as young Mennonite missionaries on a ship headed for China in 1906. Interspersed through his tale are excerpts from the journal Katherine kept during their three decades in China. Katherine had nursing training, but Will had only his love for the Lord and his desire to share it. The two worked side by side, healing bodies and engaging souls through famines, earthquakes, civil war, encounters with bandits, and winters that were "five coats cold." They realize the many ways in which their neighbors enriched their lives as they see them through good times and bad, including the birth and death of their only child. VERDICT 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. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/10.]—Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll.

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City of Tranquil Light

A Novel

By Bo Caldwell

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2010 Bo Caldwell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4791-6



Suppose it is an autumn day, fine and clear and cool. Late afternoon, when the sun nears the horizon and turns the sky into a watercolor of pastels. It is beautiful, as though God is showing off. As you approach the city you first see its wall, an immense gray brick structure that is as solid as it is imposing, nearly as wide as it is high, some thirty feet. If you are coming from the east, it will be in sharp silhouette against the lovely changing sky. Near the city the air begins to smell of smoke, but mostly it has the sweet, clean scent of the ripening winter wheat in the surrounding fields.

From a distance the city may not look like much; only that dark wall is visible, and what can that tell you? Some say the cities in the North China Plain are by and large alike, one indistinguishable from another; to them this one might look like any other. But it is not; I can testify to this, for it is the place on this earth that I love the most, the city in which my wife and I lived for nearly twenty-five years among beggars and bandits and farmers and scholars and peasants, people whom we deeply loved. The name of the city is Kuang P'ing Ch'eng — City of Tranquil Light — and although I now reside in southern California and have for many years, that faraway place remains my home.

And it is often in my thoughts. Above my bed hang three Chinese scrolls depicting New Testament scenes, painted by our most improbable convert and given to me when we left China. In the first, the prodigal son kneels at his father's feet as the father rests his hands on the young man's head. The son's pigtail is disheveled and his blue peasant's tunic and trousers are dirty and torn, while the father's violet silk robe is immaculate. In the second, an oriental woman lovingly washes our Lord's feet with her tears and dries them with her long black hair, her own bound feet tucked beneath her, and in the third, a slight but sturdy Zacchaeus, wearing a gray scholar's robe and with his long braided queue hanging down his back, climbs a persimmon tree for a glimpse of Yeh-Su, Jesus. A Chinese lantern of bright red silk — red is the color of happiness — hangs over my writing table, and a small carved chest made of camphor wood holds my woolen sweaters. My Chinese New Testament, its spine soft and its pages worn, sits on the table by my reading chair, with a strip of faded red paper, a calling card given to me long ago, marking my place. I still read the Scriptures in Chinese; I find I am more at home in it than I am in English, just as my Chinese name, Kung P'ei Te, given to me at the beginning of this century, seems more a part of me than my legal name, Will Kiehn.

On my dresser is the photograph taken on our wedding day, November 4, 1908. Katherine and I were married at the American Consulate in Shanghai, and we are wearing Chinese clothes in the picture; our western clothes were too shabby for the occasion, and by then we had dressed in Chinese clothes for two years. Next to the photograph is 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 were. 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. I was her husband for over thirty-seven years, during which the longest we were apart was thirty-one days. She taught me the self-discipline I lacked, believed I was capable of far more than I did, and loved me as a young man as well as an old one. She was the one and only love of my life.

When I was twenty-one and on my way to China, I tried to envision my life there. I saw myself preaching to huge gatherings of people, baptizing eager new converts, working with my brothers in Christ to improve their lives. I did not foresee the hardships and dangers that lay ahead: the loss of one so precious, the slow and painful deprivation of drought and famine, the continual peril of violence, the devastation of war, the threat to my own dear wife. Again and again we were saved by the people we had come to help and carried through by the Lord we had come to serve. I am amazed at His faithfulness; even now our lives there fill me with awe.

Last week when I was sitting in the small reading room of the retirement home in which I live, a man selling Fuller brushes visited. It was a hot day, and the man was invited in for a glass of water. He looked to be about fifty years old. There were several of us in the reading room, and as the salesman approached and awkwardly began to show us his great variety of brushes — nailbrushes, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, scrub brushes, whisk brooms — I heard his difficulty with English, and because he was oriental I asked if he spoke the standard language, Mandarin. He nodded and I began to speak in our shared tongue, and when he asked my Chinese name and I gave it, he stared at me in wonder.

"Mu shih," he said urgently, Mandarin for shepherd-teacher — pastor — "you baptized me and took me into church fellowship when I was a young man. I am your son."

I am retired now, and while at the age of eighty-one I know this is as it must be, it is strange not to be involved in active ministry; gone are the responsibilities that filled my life for so many years. I continue my work by praying for those who still serve, which I am able to do as my mind is sound. My physical health is also good; my nephew, John, a medical doctor, keeps careful watch over me, and I am well taken care of in these years, measured and monitored as never before. My niece, Madeleine, and my great-nieces and -nephews and their children also visit, and I am doted on by these younger generations.

I am also in the good company of many who have placed the Great Commission foremost in their lives. I live at Glenwood Manor, a home for retired missionaries in Claremont, California, a small town some thirty miles east of Los Angeles. With its parades on the Fourth of July and Homecoming Weekend, its parks, and its tidy downtown, Claremont is wholesome and wholly American. From my room I look out on a small vegetable garden that thrives despite my come-and-go attention. Beyond the garden are the city's eucalyptus-lined streets, and beyond them citrus groves and the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Baldy. Each morning I walk to Memorial Park and the Public Library, and afterward I answer letters and read a daily Chinese newspaper and books to which I had no access during my years in China. Once a week I read a newspaper in German, the language of my parents and my childhood. At the start of the day when I read the Scriptures, I see truths I have never seen before, even after several decades of preaching the Gospel. And I dream of Chung-Kuo, the Middle Kingdom: China.

I am an ordinary man and an unlikely missionary. The talents I have been able to offer my Lord are small and few and far outnumbered by my faults. I am often slow in getting things done, and at times I exhibit a marked willingness to avoid work. I have never considered myself an intuitive person, and I am inexperienced in many of the ways of modern life. I have, for example, never learned how to drive — I gave up after twice failing the required test — and I know little about the world of finance. I am absentminded and I often misplace things, and while I struggle with pride, I am rarely angry. Nor am I greedy, for which I have my heritage to thank; I am the son and grandson of Mennonite farmers who came to America for religious freedom, and I was raised to aspire to a simple life of farming the land and following Christ. But despite my ordinariness and the smallness of my talents, I have led an extraordinary life. This is God's grace, His unearned favor.

When I was twelve years old, a missionary spoke at the small schoolhouse in Washita County, Oklahoma, where my three brothers and two sisters and I were taught weekdays for six months of the year. We spoke English at school, but at home and in church we still spoke the mother tongue, low German, though our parents had been in America for more than twenty years. German must be God's language, my uncle told me with great seriousness, because that's what the Bible was written in. He did not see the humor in this.

The missionary was from India and he said he was returning there the following month, which I found startling, for he was old and frail. He told our class that in foreign lands the need for those to share the Good News and to care for people's bodies and souls was great, and that a missionary could be a doctor in the mission field as long as he had a good strong brush and plenty of soap and water. "A missionary brings light to the darkness," he said. "We are called to go where there is little light, and where there are people in need of help."

It seemed he was speaking directly to me; my face grew hot and I felt a pull somewhere inside. At the end of class when the offering was taken, I gave all I had — the quarter I had earned for work on the farm, plus six pennies.

At that time, I had not yet been baptized. As Mennonites we believed that faith comes not as an inheritance but as a personal decision; it is a gift freely offered and up to each individual to accept. My parents worked hard to help their children be ready to receive that gift; my mother knelt and prayed with us each morning, and in the evening my father read to us from Scripture. I was taught that faith should be apparent in every area of one's life, and I saw evidence of my parents' faith in their actions. They shared what they had with those who had less, they never turned a stranger away, and they showed me that loving our neighbor often meant feeding and clothing him, even if that involved less comfort for us. These things were as much a given in our home as taking your hat off when you were spoken to.

While faith was not my inheritance, it was my heritage. My German ancestors were people who lived apart from the world and much to themselves in Prussia, preferring not to unite with the state and its church. They wanted no part in government affairs and refused to take up firearms, for doing so would violate the commandment Thou shalt not kill. Czarina Catherine II of Russia, hearing that the community was skilled in building dikes, offered its members a deal: she would give them large tracts of virgin farmland in Polish Russia and the freedom to practice their beliefs, in return for which the people would improve the land.

Mennonites believe in the dignity of labor, and they accepted Catherine's offer. Six thousand souls left Prussia for Polish Russia, where they built their own churches and schools and were exempted from military service. They were allowed to substitute an affirmation for an oath — swearing of any kind was forbidden by God — and they were allowed to bury their own dead. They began to work the swampland along the Vistula River, where they built dikes high enough to keep the river's overflow from the lowlands, eventually transforming vast expanses of swampland into thousands of acres of wheat. They continued to speak German and they thrived for many years.

Until 1873, when Alexander II, Catherine's great-grandson, revoked their special privileges, causing the community to look once more for a place where they would be free of the demands of an aristocratic government. The United States seemed to be the answer; its Constitution promised equal rights to all, and Congress had passed a bill that excused conscientious objectors from bearing arms. The community sent a delegation to America to spy out the land, and they returned with good news: fertile farmland could be had for very little, and the state of Kansas exempted Mennonites from military service. The Santa Fe railroad sent an agent to Russia to offer free transportation on a chartered steamer.

Thus in October of 1874, after selling their land for a fraction of its value, it was to America that everyone went. With their families and friends, my parents traveled by rail to Antwerp and from there to New York on the Netherland. The group settled in Kansas, but my parents soon found that their one-hundred-and-sixty-acre farm was too small to support a family of six. In 1885, the year I was born, they traveled to the western part of Oklahoma territory and leased a section of land that had never been cultivated.

Again and again, my ancestors said yes to God, and as I grew I saw those around me say yes as well. Over the months then years I watched one person after another in our community walk forward at Sunday services. At times I looked wistfully, even enviously, at the new church members and wished that I, too, could say the words, could produce the faith. But I could not; I was suspicious of God and was afraid that, if I said yes to Him, He would change me in ways I would not like and ask of me things I did not want to do. I thought of the visiting missionary, and of what I had felt as he spoke. What if God should ask me to leave home? That I could never do. So I tolerated the restlessness that dwelt in my heart and decided that faith could wait.

Which it did, for four years, until early one morning in late summer when I was in the fields. I was sixteen years old and farming was what I loved. I knew how to prepare seedbeds, plow the fields, plant and tend our crops, and harvest wheat and fruit at the optimal time, and I felt a deep satisfaction in watching things grow. Our property was bound by a creek to the north and a line of dogwood trees to the south, with the Washita River running through the center of our land. To the south of the river we grew wheat and to the north was grassland for cattle, with orchards on either side. We harvested more grain and fruit than we could haul to market, and nearly everything on our table came from our farm: cheese and sausage, bread and eggs and jam, apples and peaches and corn.

That morning I fell to my knees behind the plow to pray before I began the day's work, just as I did every morning, for while I was unable to surrender myself to God, I was equally unable to turn my back on Him, and I could not discard my habit of cautious prayer. The day was already hot and the sun warmed my back as I knelt in the cool red dirt and thanked God for my life and asked Him to help me plow a straight line.

I was about to stand when something stopped me. It was the quiet, a deep calm that I did not want to leave or disturb. I stayed very still, and as I gazed out at the wide expanse of rich red earth, my mind and heart grew still as well. I felt a Presence that seemed to surround me and pursue me at the same time, a Presence that I knew was God, and I had the sense that I was deeply loved and cared for. I had been told of this love since I was small, but on that morning it seemed to move from my head into my heart; knowledge became belief. As I remained kneeling in the red soil, it seemed that the gift of faith was being offered to me. I whispered, "Help me to believe," and a feeling of great relief came over me as I realized how I had been longing for enough faith to give myself over. From somewhere inside I felt a yes, and an unfamiliar peace replaced the restlessness in my soul.

Two weeks later, I gave my testimony at our meetinghouse. As I looked out at the congregation, my face grew hot and my voice trembled and I felt myself perspire, but I persevered. Four Sundays later, with our congregation gathered around me, I walked into the clear rushing water of the Washita River. As I knelt, our pastor cupped his hands behind my head and I lay back in the water and felt it rush over me. Then I was up, gasping and wet and cold, and I felt new.

When I finished school three years later, my father sent me to the Gemeinde Schule — community school — a small Bible academy established by the church in nearby Corn, Oklahoma. The younger members of our church community were trained to take on the work of the older ones; my father hoped that when I finished at the academy I would attend the church's Bible College in Hutchinson, Kansas, then return home to become superintendent of our Sunday school.


Excerpted from City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell. Copyright © 2010 Bo Caldwell. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet 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.

Bo Caldwell is the author of the national bestseller The Distant Land of My Father and the novel City of Tranquil Light. 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.