City of Tranquil Light
This novel is a far cry from the breathlessly paced, predictably plotted commercial fiction churned out today. It is a gentle, intelligent, and highly readable tribute to the author’s grandparents, who met as missionaries in China in the early 20th century. One needs to read the story with patience, letting the quiet but compelling drama play itself out, savoring the moments as the author hands them to us.
Will Kiehn has never pictured himself as anything other than a Midwest farm boy destined to become a farmer himself. But somehow he feels compelled to take up the challenge of missionary work. Among the Americans traveling with him is 21-year-old Katherine Friesen, who has never seen “the edge of this continent” and wonders at her own unexpected bravery at leaving her cozy living room on this adventure. The two fall in love and share lives of hardship and joy, sacrifice and grace as they fall ever more deeply in love, learning about each other as they learn to cherish the people they’ve come to serve and teach about their God. The landscape and culture of pre-Revolutionary China, as painted by Caldwell, are particularly well drawn—from treacherous gambling bandits and wild countryside, to a dangerous civil war and face off with the encroaching armies of the South.
Caldwell displays dignified sensitivity to a little-understood culture and weaves a story of dedication and an enduring love amidst a crumbling dynasty on the verge of extinction.