Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review : When We Were On Fire

Although this book wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it was an engrossing read. The book is divided into four parts which are well named: Obsession, Disillusion, Rebellion and Redemption. Addie uses these division to write about the journey of her faith from childhood to adulthood. Addie's honesty and openness makes it a bumpy but enjoyable ride.

Most Christians go through a period of disillusionment after being a Christian for a while. It seems it is almost a necessary part of the maturing process. We become disillusioned with our church or our leaders or our Christian parents because God wants our faith to be in him and not in people or an institution. However Addie's experience is much more traumatic than most and I'm glad she continued to work through her disillusionment to a place where she can be at peace with her faith and her involvement in a church community.

Due to the way the book was advertised I was bracing myself for an attack on the evangelical church and was expecting Addie to spend most of part one – obsession – talking about her church, her pastor, the leaders, the sermons she heard and the vision and focus of her church community. The first two chapters were about some of these things but by the time we get to chapter three, Chris arrives on the scene and her obsession seems more about him than about faith. Chris is three years old than Addie which is considerable as she is only 14. He is legalistic, controlling and manipulative but also handsome and charming. Addie is besotted. The question, in my mind, was why did Addie allow Chris to control her? It seems she had loving parents, supportive friends and a personal faith so why was she so dependent on this particular relationship? For two and a half years Addie is in an on-again, off-again relationship with him which finally ends when he breaks it off with a phone call at 2 am because "God told him to" (though in context, it seems more about her inability to dance). Addie is now 16 but she continues to use Chris as a standard for her spirituality.

I felt this relationship was more damaging to Addie than the overzealous evangelical church that she grew up in. That's not to say the church didn't contribute to her problems but rather her experience of faith was more impacted by the way Chris inaccurately portrayed it.

Despite this surprise departure from the expressed theme, I did enjoy the book and found it to be very well written. Once I was accustom to it, I liked the change of point of view which allowed the reader to step back from the intensity and created variety.

Overall a good read.

I share few more thoughts about this book here.

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