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City of Tranquil Light

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  1,253 Ratings  ·  360 Reviews
Henry Holt, 2010, 1st edition, As New., Unused, in dust jacket. Bright, clean, tight. First edition. [Fiction] Out-of-print and antiquarian booksellers since 1933. We pack and ship with care.
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Sep 06, 2010 Elyse rated it it was amazing
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
Clif Hostetler
Sep 03, 2012 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
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
Dec 31, 2011 Margaret rated it really liked it
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
Sep 05, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing
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.

Mar 23, 2011 Beth rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sherry Elmer
Feb 07, 2014 Sherry Elmer rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 04, 2013 Lianne rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 07, 2013 Laure rated it it was amazing

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
Jan 09, 2014 Ebookwormy1 rated it it was amazing
This is a review I don't want to write. Though I finished "City of Tranquil Light" a couple of weeks ago, and the aura of the characters has faded, I'm not ready to close the book. It is a book that has a classic feel, and calls out to be read and re-read.

"City of Tranquil Light" is a deep, tender, story that flows on many levels. Themes of life's purpose/ calling, maturity, China, marriage, cross-cultural living/ transformation, life & death, suffering, self-sacrifice, retirement, health st
Nov 14, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
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
Debbie Dyckman
Jul 17, 2011 Debbie Dyckman rated it it was amazing
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.
We love
Dec 10, 2014 We love rated it it was amazing
Shelves: me
Hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking. I was so encouraged and challenged in my faith. I couldn't put this down.
Feb 12, 2012 Gigi rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 14, 2010 Nancy rated it it was amazing
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,
Jun 29, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it
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
Eric Wright
Jul 27, 2015 Eric Wright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book to transport one into China in the early 1900's and into the heat and soul of a couple committed to helping the Chinese and serving Christ. One of the best missionary biographies I've read...but it isn't a biography but fiction based on the lives of the author's maternal grandparents.

An ordinary man, Will Kiehn of a farming family hears the call of God and goes to the North China Plain in 1906. There he is meets Katherine, a fellow missionary and nurse who at first views him as
Good Book Fairy
Feb 06, 2011 Good Book Fairy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, asian
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
Feb 24, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it
This was a 'quiet' historical fiction book set in China right before the communist takeover. Two Mennonite missionaries served in a little village. He preached; she was more like the village doctor. They were well suited together and each had their own niche in the area they served, and both were given their own POV in this book.

I've lived in a foreign country, as have my 3 adult children. We all had some kind of 'culture shock'. But the characters in this book didn't seem to address that. It w
Oct 19, 2016 Shireen rated it it was amazing
I reserve 5 stars for very few books but I have no hesitation in giving this book such a high rating. While it was a little slow in the beginning, the book made up for it in the end. It touched me deeply causing me to reflect on my experience in a foreign country serving a mission for my church and how profoundly I loved the people and that place. I am amazed at the sacrifices made in this book and was especially impressed at the end to learn that this work of fiction was based on true stories o ...more
Jan 30, 2017 Lisa rated it liked it
A humbling book. It was a little slow at the start, but well worth reading.
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
Sep 10, 2010 Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries) rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, reviewed
This review first appeared on my blog:

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
Nov 18, 2010 Myckyee rated it it was amazing
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
May 05, 2012 Crissie rated it it was ok
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
Nov 25, 2016 Annette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Fascinating story - I got goosebumps a couple times. Faith-filling and life-affirming. Loved it.

"We often wait for God with hope. But sometimes we must wait for hope. We may feel nothing, but we do not rely on our feelings. When we don't feel hope, we wait for it, and it always comes." (p. 274)

"I pray throughout the day God's will, not mine, be done, whatever that may mean. When I was younger, I thought it meant traveling a road that was straight and confining and predictable, something
Oct 02, 2010 Cheryl rated it liked it
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
Jamie Eskelson
Oct 07, 2014 Jamie Eskelson rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 05, 2014 Heidi rated it liked it
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
Sep 25, 2015 Terry rated it liked it
Set in China during the first third of the 20th Century, this novel chronicles the everyday life of Mennonite missionaries. If read without introduction, Caldwell's writing could easily be read as the dual memoir of Will and Katherine. It is a much more sympathetic portrayal of Christian mission work than is often presented in fiction; for instance, compare it to Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. The level of dedication and self-sacrifice brings Shusaku Endo's Silence to my mind.
Vanessa Hua
Nov 09, 2010 Vanessa Hua rated it liked it
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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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
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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.” 8 likes
“My father had told me when I was young that courage was not strength in the absence of fear but strength in the presence of fear, and I asked God for the courage to withstand whatever lay ahead. I felt His forgiveness wash over me, lessening my remorse.” 2 likes
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