City of Tranquil Light
By Bo Caldwell
(St. Martin's Griffin, Paperback, 9780312641801, 320pp.)
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
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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 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).
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.
"Deceptively quiet, this portrait of a couple in love with each other, their work, and their adopted country explores the deepest questions of faith while richly illuminating a lost time and place."—Andrea Barrett, author of The Air We Breathe
"City of Tranquil Light is just my kind of book. It is full of light, even at its darkest moments. I relished the hours spent with this dedicated and intrepid couple and will not soon forget them. Bo Caldwell has honored her missionary grandparents with her storytelling skills."—Gail Godwin, author of Unfinished Desires and Evensong
"What ardent, dazzling souls emerge from these American missionaries in China. Two great lovers hand their story back and forth, the husband writing from widowed old age, the wife speaking from the immediacy of a diary she kept during their decades in pre-Revolutionary China.... A beautiful, searing book that leaves an indelible presence in the mind."—Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist's Daughter
"A handful of books each year convince me of their firm grip on what, for want of a better word, I would call truth. Bo Caldwell has seized on this material, based on the experience of her grandparents, and somehow conjured a miraculous story, one full of passion, historical interest, and spiritual questing. The North China Plain is vividly evoked, and the main characters, Will and Katherine, will not easily be forgotten. City of Tranquil Light is a poem in prose form, and it will lift any reader's spirit as it lifted mine."—Jay Parini, author of The Last Station
"City of Tranquil Light is a remarkable evocation of another time and place as well as a deeply moving love story, but, most of all, Bo Caldwell's book is a profound meditation on the mysteries of belief. This novel is one that will linger in the reader's mind long after the last page is turned."—Ron Rash, author of Serena"It is inspired, a beautifully written, often riveting, heatbreaking, heart-healing, wise and sweet-tempered novel."—America Magazine “City of Tranquil Light is an enthralling love story about two people, their adopted country and their God—a deceptively straightforward novel told in powerful, profound prose. . . . In melding fiction and truth, we learn about remarkable lives, but also sense that we are discovering what Caldwell herself has learned of life and love and faith.” – Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness “Bo Caldwell’s Will and Katherine Kiehn’s. . . quiet faith, love of their adopted country, and devotion to each other will stir all but the most callous readers. . . . The two books that came to my mind most often when reading this one were Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop and Marilynn Robinson’s Gilead. . . . Joseph Conrad and Barbara Kingsolver took us to the heart of darkness. Bo Caldwell arouses the hope, even the conviction, that beyond darkness of all kinds lies a heavenly city—a city of tranquil light.” – Shirley Showalter, Christian Century “Throughout the unrelenting hardship, the remarkably stable couple remains in China, bound to their newfound roots and to the ideals of their larger mission. . . Katherine’s diary entries are emotionally deft, capturing the romance and anxiety of cultural estrangement.” – Publishers Weekly “A tale of enduring love between this couple, their love for China and its people, and their love for their God.” – Library Journal “Luminous, heart wrenching and intricately detailed” – Santa Cruz Good Times “. . . plainspoken and tender . . . makes for a lovely sustained chant.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“A luminous slice of place and time. . . a sensory experience. . . Historical fiction fans, those who appreciate missionary stories, and those who enjoy a good novel will find City of Tranquil Light an absorbing, engaging read.” – Christianity Today