Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

As a young man, a Mennonite from Oklahoma, farmer Will Kiehn hears a missionary from China speak and after much soul searching feels called by God to join a group of newly recruited missionaries on the North China Plain. On his journey out to China, he meets Katherine Friesen, a nurse in training, the sister-in-law of the mission leader, and his eventual wife. Between them, Will and Katherine strive to follow God's plan for their lives even as they live through the upheavals and civil wars sweeping through China in the early years of the twentieth century.

Will starts a church in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng, the City of Tranquil Light, to minister to the Chinese people and lead them to the Christian God while Katherine ministers to their bodies. Will and Katherine are devoted to their calling and to each other. They are of the opinion that the way they live their lives, living godly lives, will show others the way to God rather than actively trying to convert the Chinese people they meet. And they are steadfast in their beliefs even as they weather great tragedies and terrible tests of their faith: losing their young daughter to dysentry, famine, Will's lengthy kidnapping by a robber bandit. They live through great changes in China, the crumbling of the last Chinese dynasty, the emergence of Chiang Kai-Shek, and the creation of the Kuomintang. They survive the reprisals against foreigners and missionaries in particular, never losing their deep love for their adopted land.

Told through Will's memories now that he's an old man in a nursing home and Katherine's diary entires from their many years in the country, the novel presents their faith and beliefs in non-preachy ways. The characters, based on the author's grandparents, are good, solid people whose sense of purpose, strength, and trust are the foundation for their various beautiful love stories: love for each other, love for God, love for the Chinese people, and love of place. This is a gorgeously rendered homage to Caldwell's grandparents that will resonate quietly for a long time.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing what missionaries survived and went through years ago in war torn countries. Nice review.


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