City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell © 2010 Henry Holt/Blackstone

Real change of pace for me this time.  Not sure what made me try this life story of a Mennonite missionary to early 1900s China.  Maybe it was a higher power.  The story’s unadorned prose fit the humble characters to a T, and reminded this writer you don’t need clever similes and metaphors to tell an interesting tale.  Plain English words are often the best.  Caldwell’s style made the story seem peaceful, almost a meditative experience, until I would occasionally stop and think about what was going on.  The characters endure tremendous hardships and overcome insurmountable odds, yet do so with simple conviction and certainty of purpose rather than effusive drama.

Caldwell did an excellent job making the reader feel what China was like in that turbulent time and the reader simultaneously incorporates the inner thoughts and soul of a person very different from most of us.  Really an interesting choice to convey a violent, revolutionary span of history through the eyes of a humble foreign pacifist.  It worked great.  I came to love China as much as the missionary did, and his outlook on life brought me down a deserved notch in the self-importance department.  Different, and wonderfully so, I highly recommend City of Tranquil Light.

I listened to the audio version, which was read by Bronson Pinchot.  If you’re old enough to remember Perfect Strangers, you’re smirking, but he did a terrific job.  Clear delivery, no overacting.  When I overcome insurmountable odds and have my books appearing in audio, I want to hire Pinchot.


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