The City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell is a fictional book based on the lives of the author’s grandparents. It feels like an autobiography, written in first person for the adult audience. The voice is humble, authentic and compelling.  Although not designed for the young adult audience, it certainly would be appropriate for older teens. This is one of the best reads I’ve had in years.

The story follows the lives of Will Kiehn and Katherine Friesen who travel from the United States to China in 1906 to join a missionary team.  From his reminiscences and her journal entries, we trace their courtship, marriage and adventures.

It begins as calmly as a church library missionary book, showing their adjustment to a new land and a new relationship.  It artfully unfolds the inner workings of faith, calling, marriage and vocation.  With cross-cultural sensitivity, we see the China of an earlier era through their eyes.

Life intensifies as they endure personal loss, doubt and decline.  They witness brutal justice and civil war; they survive bandits, flood and famine.  Despite these harsh realities, love and faith endure—beautifully expressed in their thoughts, acts and prayers.

If your older teen is sensitive to passages about loss, death and catastrophe, perhaps it would be better to leave this book on the shelf until college.  But if your teen is grappling with the harder issues of life or wants a picture of true romance, this story grips the heart and leaves it hoping.

The City of Tranquil Light was published by Henry Holt and Co., 2010.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

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