City of Tranquil Light. Bo Caldwell. In the Argo Catalog.
This book caught my attention because I found the title to be haunting. My grandfather passed away recently and I have a 6 month old son that does not feel the need to sleep at night and so I was attracted to a book that had the word tranquil in the title. At times I feel like George Costanza’s father yelling to the sky “Serenity now!” That is an emotion the characters of Caldwell’s novel know well. The book is about two German-Americans who leave their Mennonite homes in America for the unknown lands of China where they will spread the word of the Lord. Caldwell’s grandparents were such a couple and the story was triggered by reading their diaries from the time.
Caldwell did plenty of research reading many memoirs by missionaries and leafing through many histories of China to make sure he got things right. The novel however is at heart a love story.Â Will and Katherine love their god, that is why they have met in China. They quickly fall in love with each other and the land and wind up spending most of their adult lives in China. The book follows their love through the trials of living a very dangerous land. China at the turn of the century was home to many war lords, revolutions and anti-foreign sentiments. Regardless of the hardships they managed to build a life there.
Caldwell weaves a good story full of characters that are enjoyable. This is not great literature, the characters are pretty standardized; there are good ones, bad ones and bad ones turned good. The characters are part of amazing moments in history and adventures that seem far-fetched and yet we suspect are true. The book is a reminder of the power of love and the power of living by ones beliefs. It is a book I think my grandmother would enjoy reading at the moment. Hauntingly sad but loving and purposeful this novel is for you if you like historical fiction or tender love stories.