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City of Tranquil Light

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  849 ratings  ·  278 reviews
"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 tw
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published September 28th 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,738)
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Margaret
It can be hard to find novels that show Christianity in a positive light these days. I don't count the "Christian fiction" genre, as I've rarely found anything worth reading there. But mainstream fiction usually portrays Christians in a negative way, if it portrays them at all. And Christian missionaries? Don't get me started.

City of Tranquil Light is a beautiful novel that tells the story of a missionary couple in China in a very respectful, loving way. These missionaries are not crazy men and
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Beth
This book attracted my notice because of my Chinese connection with the past. Not only did I spend my early childhood in Taiwan where my parents taught English, but my grandmother was born and raised in China by her missionary parents. My mother and father also taught English there at a later time, but I didn’t accompany them on that trip. Their home has always been open to hosting students from China, many of whom have become our friends over the years. My grandmother spoke Mandarin all her lif ...more
Clif Hostetler
This novel tells the story of a couple who served as Christian missionaries in China from 1906 to 1933. It portrays their story with a sympathetic and positive slant. This is in contrast to prevailing anthropologic thinking that missionaries often served as agents of western colonial interests. The story in this book is of missionaries who honor and appreciate local culture and customs. They dress as locals, adopt Chinese names for themselves and learn the language. Furthermore, they provide muc ...more
Scott
This is a lyrical novel based partly on the author's maternal grandparents' work as missionaries in China in the early Twentieth Century. It vividly brings to life what it was like to live in a small farming town on the North China plain whose way of life was slowly moving into the modern world amidst disease, famine and war. The story is one of faith amid hardship and doubt, with the story progressing in a low key style. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Deyanne
I lifted this review. I loaned the library book forgetting to copy some marvelous quotes I planned to use to write my comments.

"I have learned to do what God places in front of me, whatever that is," Will Kiehn says as he explains to Hsiao Lao, the bandit chief, his commitment to help anybody in need, be that a sick old farmer or an injured thief. Those same words could also sum up Will's life story in City of Tranquil Light."

In 1909 Will and his wife, Katherine arrived in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng (Ci
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Sherry Elmer
When this book was chosen by my book club, I wasn't expecting much from a modern book about China. I am happy that I was wrong. This is a beautiful book, well worth the time reading it.

City of Tranquil Light is a love story. It is a love story about a husband and wife who faithfully love each other through intense trials and great joy, grievous loss and gifts of grace. It is the story of an American couples' deep love for the Chinese people, and it is the story of their Chinese friends' and neig
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Lianne
One of my local book clubs chose this title and hosted the author after our discussion. Bo Caldwell has fictionalized her grandfather's journal of a missionary career in China from 1906 to 1940. The story is an engaging treatment of a tumultuous period in Chinese history.Central to the focus of the plot is the enduring love story between the grandparents who share the missionary experience. Katherine brings the useful and practical skills of nursing to their mission and Will brings his faith and ...more
Laura
City of Tranquil Light is a quiet book - there's a lot going on, but the touch is barely there, most of the time. The tale of two Mennonite missionaries on the Great China Plain, the day-to-day sorrows and triumphs of these ordinary people are compelling. There are a few "loud" moments (the beheadings, for example) but that only makes them stand out more. The decision to tell the story through Will's remembering and Katherine's journal adds to the slightly removed tone.

One of the big complaints
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Debbie Dyckman
It is a rare story that has the power to say that the reading of it has significantly stirred your soul and changed your perspective. This is one of those stories; a genuine gift to read. Best book I've read in quite some time. An elegantly written story about remarkable people. Keep the tissue handy.
Amy
Dec 09, 2014 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Michelle
In the middle of this book, I thought I might give this 4.5 stars, mostly because I reserve 5 stars for books I would want to read again. Then in the last 50 pages of the book, I changed my rating to 5. This is such a beautiful story with enormously beautiful characters. It made me want to strengthen my relationship to my Savior; it made me want to increase my faith; it made me want to be more in tune to the spirit. I was in tears at the end; I think because of the timing in my personal life, no ...more
Crissie
A very 'quiet' book about a young American Mennonite missionary couple in China at the beginning of the last century - very much culturally Die Stille im Lande working in China.

I was struck by the few notes of passion and how they occurred in difficult times (loss of a child, illness, homesickness). I would have liked more fleshing out of what it meant, really, and felt like, really, to move from one culture to another.

An element I found missing: Katherine, a nurse, is a healer and Mo Yun is i
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Myckyee
Though I'm not a very religious person I don't shy away from books that have a religious theme as long as the author discloses it openly from the start. What I don't like is when the topic broadsides you; the author slipping in the religion like one of those proselytizers that catch you unawares by starting a conversation and you slowly realize that they're making more and more references to a higher being. Ah, I think, I'm being witnessed to and I just thought I was having a pleasant chat with ...more
Laure

A former Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University, Bo Caldwell demonstrates her ability to provide a fulfilling sensory experience as she recreates a slice of place and time in early twentieth-century China. The two thousand-year-old dynasty is crumbling and civil war rocks the county. Into this turmoil steps a set of unmarried mid-western Mennonite missionaries, Will and Katherine, who are each determined to give their skills and their hearts to the people of China.

They are the
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Cheryl
When Will Kiehn was a young man, his family was visited by Edward Geisler. Edward is part of the China Mennonite Missionary Society. Edward shares about his latest trip in China and the goals of the Society. Will gets inspired by Edward. When it is time for Edward to return back to Kuang P’ing Ch’eng “City of Tranquil Light”, China; Will announces that he will be going with Edward.

Edward introduces Will to Katherine Friesen, a nurse and Edward’s sister in law. Katherine will be joining them on
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Gigi
City of Tranquil Light is the story of a missionary couple to China and spans from 1906 to 1966. The story alternates the voices of Will and Katherine. Hearing two viewpoints adds depth and dimension to the tale. Their faith and the country and people they love are strong characters in the book as well. The love the two share reaches out from the pages and enlarges the reader's heart to love more, better, bigger.

"When you leave a place you love, you leave a piece of your heart. But you take wit
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Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
This review first appeared on my blog: http://jewelknits.blogspot.com/2010/1...

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 f
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Nancy
I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. The author's voice is compelling and articulate. The story is told by two narrators; Will and Katherine. Their voices and outlooks are distinct and different from one another. Although they are married and serve together in China, their experiences and perceptions are very different.

The years the couple are in China are pivotal in the country's economic and political outcome. A dynasty ends, a civil war is fought, there is drought and famine,
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Elyse
I read "The Distant Land of My Father" in the year 2002 ---[thought I had just read one of the best books of my life].

Later when San Jose picked "The Distant Land of My Father" for BOOK of the YEAR --(I was not surprised) --I was excited because I knew I'd get a chance to meet the author.

Listening to Bo Caldwell speak that first night inspired me. Everything about this Bo Caldwell touched me. She wrote a brilliant book. She herself was beautiful. Her family was extraordinary. --A marvelous eve
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Heidi
Three and a half stars, actually.

I liked the way this book was written from both the male and female character's perspective. I wish, however, that there was more depth to the descriptions of everyday life and relationships in China. There is so much longing for a land they called "home" later in life, but not a lot in the first half of the story to warrant that. I wish there was more description of how their work progressed and more about converts and their changed lives.

I also find it curiou
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Good Book Fairy
After waiting what seems like forever for Bo Caldwell to release another book, i've decided it was worth the wait. Reminiscent story telling as in The Distant Land of My Father, this book creates China to be it's own wonderful character.
The subject was loosely based on the author's own family and it brought me back to The Good Earth by Pearl Buck mixed with a dollop of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
Their commitment to their faith was believable, beautiful and inspiring. I love the p
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Casey
I love this book! What an amazing story! It made me cry and left me feeling good about people and wanting to try harder to serve and be a better person. I will miss these characters. This is one that sticks with you.
Lori
I'm stingy with stars in my reviews, but this one rightly earned each of the five stars I gave it. I loved it. The author transports us to turn-of-the-century China. We feel the strangeness, we learn to love the people, and we observe a deep and beautiful love between Will and Katherine. Through it all winds a humble and abiding faith, never forced but steadily and constantly revealed, in the Loving God who inspired and called them to China, sustaining them through every joy and suffering. A bea ...more
Vanessa
You can tell the novel is inspired by the author's grandparents - it reads like hagiography. Will and Katherine are brave and pious and so very good that ultimately they come off flat as characters. The Chinese converts are so very grateful, so very moved by these foreigners who have come so far they too seem a bit cartoonish.

I preferred the portrayal of the missionaries in Chang-rae Lee's "The Surrendered" -- they were much more rounded for all their faults.

Informative about daily life during
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Selah
"I couldn’t help but fall in love with the place and the characters. I felt inspired to follow my dreams. At the same time, however, some cognitive dissonance showed up in my brain because the whole idea of sending people to another country to convert them to your religion is… questionable to say the least."

Read more here:
http://selahlynch.wordpress.com/2013/...

Melinda Van Komen
What a lovely, rich, thought-provoking, faith-affirming book. The relationships are lovingly drawn, and the characters ring authentic. I loved this one, and highly recommend it. If you are looking for a book for your reading group and have a few members that are tough to please or easy to offend, this would make a great read.
Steph
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Theresa DePaepe
I loved reading this novel. I was hesitant to add it to my reading list due to the religious theme, but I am glad that I did. The story flows through complex thoughts and issues with simplicity and that is part of the beauty of it.

The story is told through the narration of Will and the journal entries of Katherine, two Mennonite missionaries who travel to China at the turn of the 20th century. Will is physically strong, but filled with self doubt while Katherine is mentally strong and self assur
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Kelly
What an incredible book! I am blown away at this story that is fiction, yet based on the author's grandparents. The characters are so well developed, the scenes are so well described that you feel as if you are a part of it. I did not want it to end!
Michelle
Nov 14, 2014 Michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michelle by: Deyanne
My favorite book in a long time. I'm a lazy reviewer, but I LOVED this book. Beautiful writing, characters I cared about, themes of love, faith, forgiveness, redemption. I can see myself rereading this.
Jamie Eskelson
This is a beautifully written book about a married couple who choose to live in China as Mennonite missionaries during the early 1900's. It's fiction, but based on the authors maternal grandparents real life experiences. I don't know if it struck a chord with me because I have missionary work on the mind lately (my oldest son will be going on a mission this summer), or due to the amazingly strong, hard working, self-less and kind main characters who were continually striving to better their indi ...more
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Bo Caldwell (b. 1955) is the author of the national bestseller, The Distant Land of My Father. She became popular after this book became the book of Silicon Valley Reads 2008. 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 currently lives in Northern California with her husband ...more
More about Bo Caldwell...
The Distant Land of My Father Ploughshares Fall, 1996

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“Hsiao Lao smiled weakly. "He is a foolish God... Your God does not behave in the way I would expect." I laughed suddenly, for I had thought the same many times -- how foolish God is with me, my sweet, spendthrift, profligate Lord, bestowing on me things I would not have thought myself capable of. "It may seem that way, Hsaso Lao. He is foolish in His giving and in His care for us. He has spoiled me throughout my life.” 5 likes
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