Posts Tagged With: China

City of Tranquil Light – Summer Reading Favorite

city of tranquil light 4Summer reading is a very special type of experience because it often takes places out of doors, on a beach or a porch swing. Often we allow ourselves a larger allocation of time to read during this season, giving ourselves a little break from the hard work ethic of the school year and the full calendar of goals and achievements.

So that means we need some rich reading options and I have one to recommend: City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, first published in 2010. I blogged on this novel eighteen months ago, but if you missed it here is another chance.

A former Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University, Bo Caldwell demonstrates her ability to provide a fulfilling sensory experience as she recreates a slice of place and time in early twentieth-century China. The two thousand-year-old dynasty is crumbling and civil war rocks the county. Into this turmoil steps a set of unmarried mid-western Mennonite missionaries, Will and Katherine, who are each determined to give their skills and their hearts to the people of China.

They are the good kind of missionaries with the respect for their adopted country that is the foundation of true service: “Katherine, there are practices in this country that you will dislike, I assure you. But some of these we must accept as they are. We are here to offer the gift of faith, not to remake their way of life, even when the change seems necessary and right. It is a question of choosing your battles. Remember that we are guests, and uninvited ones at that.” (Will Kiehn)

Caldwell thoroughly researched the history of her grandparents’ lives as missionaries, as well as this historical period in China, and that background gives this fictional story a realism in its setting and a high level of tragedy in its plot line.

Poignantly, Caldwell describes the resultant suffering as the Communists defeat the Imperial government. Will and Katherine marry and then align wholeheartedly with their Chinese friends to endure this troubled period in an ancient and beautiful land. The opening chapters detail the couple’s initial meeting, but the majority of the book takes place as they walk out their married life together.

In my opinion, this novel satisfies the avid historical fiction reader, the romantic, those who love beautiful prose, and the reader searching for an inspirational story. In the novel, Will reflects on his long life “When I was twenty-one and on my way to China, I tried to envision my life there. I saw myself preaching to huge gatherings of people, baptizing eager new converts, working with my brothers in Christ to improve their lives. I did not foresee the hardships and dangers that lay ahead: the loss of one so precious, the slow and painful deprivation of drought and famine, the continual peril of violence, the devastation of war, the threat to my own dear wife. Again and again we were saved by the people we came to help and carried through by the Lord we had come to serve. I am amazed at His faithfulness; even now our lives there fill me with awe.” (p. 9)

Bo Caldwell

Bo Caldwell

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Chick lit, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Romantic Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vicarious Heroism – Daughter of China

We can strip the knight of his armor, to reveal that he looks exactly like us, or we can try on the armor ourselves to experience how it feels.  Fiction provides an ideal opportunity to try on the armor.”  C.S. Lewis

Nineteen year old Mei-lin, the fictional hero of Daughter of China, lives in a modern-day rural village.  She faces fierce persecution and demanding personal choices as her story unfolds.  The author, C. Hope Flinchbaugh, based her novel on true testimonies of persecuted Christians in China and that authenticity shines out of every page.

Although it was published ten years ago (Bethany House, 2002), Daughter of China is not just a banner waved and then furled; it still speaks profoundly to us about religious persecution and the repression of the one child policy in China.   Mei-lin pursues her beliefs in a government system that does not offer religious freedom.  Her heroism is striking due to her youth; all her life is before her, and yet she continually risks her safety to follow her conscience.

My pet name for this type of fiction is a “hero book”.  We, as Americans,  will most likely never travel in the flesh to these places, nor live in the time periods of hero books set in the past.  It is vitally  important that we open our eyes and our hearts through stories like this so that we are stretched and move beyond our current culture and lifestyle.  This type of vicarious living is definitely not escapism.  This novel made me ask myself: “What would I do if it were me in that time and place?”  I am convinced that we, as readers, can try on C.S. Lewis’  “armor” through any genre of fiction or non-fiction as long as we have the “knight”!

Thankfully there is a sequel, because Mei-lin was a heroine I didn’t want to be parted from.  Across the China Sky (Bethany House, 2006) chronicles Mei-lin’s continued struggle in her native China.  Hope Flinchbaugh’s third novel, I’ll Cross the River (Destiny Image, 2008), brings the reader into current day North Korea and the plight of those locked into the suffering created by a corrupt communist system.  I have the honor of knowing Hope Flinchbaugh personally as a member of my local church. She is a hero in her own right telling t,he world of the persecution of our international brothers and sisters through her writing and publishing.

http://www.historymakerpublishing.com

http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/2014/01/across-china-sky-c-hope-flinchbaugh-one.html

Categories: Chick lit, Children's Books, Girl Fiction, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

City of Tranquil Light – A Story of Unfailing Love

city of tranquil light“A woman of forty-seven who has been married twenty-seven years and has six children knows what love really is and once described it for me like this: ‘Love is what you have been through with somebody.'” James Thurber

The publishing industry floods us with romantic fiction.  Hollywood movies too, are so often either thrillers or romantic comedies.  These matchmaking novels and movies entertain us and have the additional value of showing us whether or not two individuals are well-suited, though sometimes I feel compelled to yell at the protagonist in frustration: “He’s not the right one! Don’t choose him!”

Match making is a fairly harmless natural instinct. It’s even possible to find novels in this genre that avoid descriptions of sexual encounters which is where my my personal moral bar is set.  My complaint is that the stories are so one-dimensional and only take us on the attraction journey between people.  It can easily become a mono diet of romance that ends only in a wedding ceremony.  I need more than that. I need answers to the question of how do I live in love for a lifetime with one flawed person? Or on the flip side, how does my spouse live with my immaturity and shortcomings?  Deeper romance books are helpful too, for young people waiting to make the decision to marry, and the many who have been married and divorced.

I believe the novel City of Tranquil Light offers an answer.  The author, Bo Caldwell, researched the history of her grandparents’ lives as missionaries in China that gives this story a wonderful realism. Poignantly, Caldwell describes China in the 1920s and the resultant suffering as the Communists defeat the Imperial government.  Along with their Chinese friends, the missionary couple of the story endures this troubled period in an ancient and beautiful land. The opening chapters detail the couple’s initial meeting, but the majority of the book takes place as they walk out their married life together.  Author Bo Caldwell documents a tender, enduring love between Katherine and Will in adversity.

I gave this novel to my reading club friend April, to test out if it was “bloggable”  Putting into words why she loved it, April wrote: “I loved this book because I was drawn to the story of this couple following God’s call on their life. Even though they experienced many hardships, and the personal cost was great for them, they didn’t feel it was a sacrifice. Their obedience to God and their love for each other and the people and country of China was very inspiring.”

The Kiehn’s married relationship echoes the marriage vows so many of us are familiar with “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death”. p 427 Book of Common Prayer. (BCP) Less well-known are the powerful words in the BCP which describe the purpose of marriage: “The union of husband and wife in heart, mind, and body is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.” p 423.

If we remove for a moment the consuming occupation of nurturing our children, a deeper layer of bonding in marriage becomes more visible: a shared mission.  In the case of Katherine and Will Kiehn, each individually goes to China to serve as a missionary. They meet and marry “on the mission field”.  Serving as missionaries together as a married couple certainly isn’t the only way to share a “mission”.  Katherine and Will, by the way, have very different abilities and gifts which they exercise while in China.  In our case, my husband is a skilled family and marriage therapist and an athlete.  I am a writer, homeschool teacher and women’s group leader.  But we share the same mission to show others the reality of a loving God.

So put aside the other type of romantic novels, and check out City of Tranquil Light

Many novels depict interesting married couples including:

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Strong Poison, Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers – four of her mysteries recount the courtship and marriage of Lord Peter and Harriet.

Father Tim and Cynthia, At Home in Mitford, A Light in the Window and the other “Mitford” novels by Jan Karon

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, The BeeKeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. King has written twelve novels that showcase their partnership to solve crimes and bring the guilty to justice.

Benjamin January and Rose, A Free Man of Color and other novels by Barbara Hambly – a fascinating mystery series set in New Orleans in the 1830s.

Categories: Chick lit, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Romantic Fiction, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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