In City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell tells a story based on the lives of her grandparents, who were missionaries to China in the early 1900s.
In the story, the unassuming couple does not conflate the Gospel with Western life, but rather adopted China as their homeland for nearly 30 years, took Mandarin as their own language, and adopted Chinese ways, humbly serving their community with medical help (the wife was a trained nurse), food and shelter for orphans and famine victims, and putting down deep roots.
Told through both the husband’s narrative and sections of the wife’s diary, the story was touching and very interesting, but I found myself wishing at several points for more detail or insight. At some points the spiritual thoughts of both characters seemed sort of cliche, not quite real, although I can’t put my finger on why. I would have liked to have seen more inner turmoil and wrestling with big problems, and I would have liked to have seen more detail about life in China (there is a lot, but I wanted to know more about how people lived, how did they feed all of the refugees, how exactly did one find food in the famine, and so forth).
Overall, I thought City of Tranquil Light was a good book and would recommend it if you’re interested in China or missionary stories. At the end of the book the author did include a list of true stories about missionaries to China that she also consulted, and I’m considering reading a few of those.
If you’ve read any particularly good or memorable stories of missionaries in China, would you let me know in the comments?
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