City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell
Published by Henry Holt & Company, an imprint of Macmillan
Review copy provided by the publicist
Will Kiehn is beginning to plan out his future, one that consists of farming on his family’s property in the Midwest, when he suddenly feels called by God to travel to China as a missionary. While on his journey to China, he meets fellow missionary and nurse Katherine, and they quickly fall in love and marry in China. City of Tranquil Light is the story of Will and Katherine’s lives in China, spanning the fifty or so years of their marriage and life together, and taking the reader on a historical, faith-driven journey.
City of Tranquil Light is an absolutely beautiful book. There’s no two ways about it – everything about this novel is simply gorgeous. The writing is lush, descriptive, and really made me feel like I was in China with Will and Katherine. The setting is such an integral part of the novel, and Caldwell so excellently captured what it must have felt like to live in this part of the country, in this time period. I cannot speak highly enough about her writing and the feelings she was able to evoke in me throughout the novel.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about this book before reading it (I was attracted to the cover and the historical-ness of it), and I had no idea how faith-based this novel is! You would think, well obviously it is, they are missionaries for goodness sakes! But I truly didn’t imagine what a huge part of the novel faith would be until I began reading it (and had sort of a “duh” moment). The truth is, everything about City of Tranquil Light is faith-driven. Will and Katherine are extremely faithful, God-loving people, and their mission in life is to bring Jesus to the people of China. Every decision they make in the novel is one they have prayed about, talked with God about, and finally came to a conclusion based on what He wants for their lives. When tragedy strikes in their lives they look to God to guide them through it and give them the strength they need to keep sharing His word. Will finds himself in some seriously sticky situations and in every single trying time, he talks about Jesus and thinks about Jesus and looks to Jesus for guidance. Without fail. It really was amazing and inspiring to read.
But let me be as clear as day on this one – you do NOT have to be a Christian to enjoy this book. Not by a long shot. This story is absolutely one to be enjoyed by all readers. While Will and Katherine’s faith is the center of their life, it is why they are in China, why they married one another, why they make virtually all of their decisions, at the heart of it this is a human story. It is a story about two people, in a foreign country, in a time in history when Americans didn’t spend much time in said country, just trying to figure things out. It is the story of their marriage, of their life together, and of the extreme difficulties they faced while trying to carry out what they believed to be their destiny. It is a beautiful story, a sad story, a heartwarming story, a story that is impossible to forget. So please do not discount City of Tranquil Light just because you are not a Christian.
I am, however, a Christian, and as a Jesus follower this book did a number on my heart. These characters just dealt with SO MUCH strife, so many hard times, so many things that I would never in a million years think I could get through. And while there were times that Will and Katherine found themselves questioning God’s plan, found themselves thinking maybe it was all too much, at the core of it they were faithful the whole way through. They saw the light through the darkness, the joy through the pain, and remained faithful to one another and to God despite everything. The pure illustration of faith in City of Tranquil Light is beyond inspiring. While I recommend this novel to everyone, I cannot more highly recommend it to you if you are a person of faith. There is no way that this book will not mean something to you – it is just that powerful, that good.
I am getting a little wordy here so allow me to stop and just encourage you to pick up City of Tranquil Light. Clearly, I loved it and it’s one of those novels that I think has something for everyone. So please read it, and let me know what you think.