Thursday, May 9, 2013

City of Tranquil Light

Caldwell, Bo. City of Tranquil Light: A Novel. New York: Henry Holt, 2010. Kindle file.
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My Thoughts
I didn't think I would enjoy this book as I started reading. I had my tablet handy to keep notes because I didn't think I would connect with the story or the characters. I was also intimidated by the setting (China) and my lack of knowledge about this region.

The novel weaves together Will's narration with Katherine's letters. This fiction book depicts the characters and details beautifully that it reads as nonfiction. There is, as one of my friends said, "honesty of the characters."

Will and Katherine are missionaries in China. They spend almost twenty years in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng (City of Tranquil Light). This is home. They face many trials and heartaches while in China and meet many people. The author layers these elements together in a way that is not preachy, condemning or unrealistic. My heart was pounding at one episode because I wasn't sure what the outcome would be.

Some of my favorite lines: "One of the few things I did know was how much I didn't know." How true! At one point in the book, Katherine comments that "We, who came to help the people here, are the beneficiaries of their kindness"--I have found this to be the case many times in my life. God has an amazing way of filling me when I think I'm filling someone else. When the "villain" Hsiao Lao explains, "examine me...given proof of how rightly I live my life" I laughed. How ironic that this "bad" man could think he's good. Well...first impressions are lasting, but they might not be accurate. It speaks to me that even when we consider ourselves to be good, we can do bad things and bad people can do good things. The author examines this idea with the Hsiao Lao character.

*I read this book on my Kindle, which doesn't give page numbers.

As I was finishing the book, I was touched by Will's love for his wife. This book is about relationships--many different kinds of relationships--friendships, marriage, grief, loyalties. It was a great read, taking me to a time and place that I didn't know much about before reading.

I often experience moments of connection. While reading this book, there is a description of Germans moving to Russia under Czarina Catherine II's reign. In a different book I'm reading (about the Dust Bowl), there is a description of Germans moving to Russia under Czarina Catherine II's reign. It's funny to me that these two books can tie together.

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