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City of Tranquil Light (Caldwell) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
[P]lainspoken and tender...makes for a lovely sustained chant.
San Francisco Chronicle


Caldwell (The Distant Land of My Father) draws from the biographies of missionaries in northern China during the turbulent first half of the 20th century in this mixed second novel. It traces the story of two young, hopeful Midwesterners—shy, bright Oklahoma farmer Will Kiehn and brave Cleveland deaconess Katherine Friesen—as they journey to the brink of China's civil war in the isolated town of Kuang P'ing Ch'eng: the "City of Tranquil Light." In the unforgiving "land of naught," they live the joys and perils of missionary life, including famine, spiritual rejection, the dramatic 1926 rise of Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang, and the forcible, often violent, exile of fellow missionaries. Throughout the unrelenting hardship, the remarkably stable couple remain in China, bound to their newfound roots and to the ideals of their larger mission. At times this novel seems more about rhetoric than relationships—the couple's unwavering dedication to each other and their mission is unbelievable at times—but Katherine's diary entries are emotionally deft, capturing the romance and anxiety of cultural estrangement.
Publishers Weekly


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. —Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll.
Library Journal


Caldwell perceptively explores the deepening faith shared by her grandparents while at the same time painting a vivid portrait of the country they came to love more deeply than their own. —Deborah Donovan
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