Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: When We Were On Fire

When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over
By Addie Zierman
Convergent October 2013
256 pages
Received from author

When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over

Addie Zierman is a child of the 90s, a girl who grew up in the midst of evangelical fervor. She went on the right missions trips, stood at the flagpole in the pouring rain to pray for her school, and went to Christian college; just like she was expected to do. But  Addie never expected to feel so disengaged and unfulfilled by the faith she had grown up with. When We Were on Fire is a heartfelt look at one woman's search for authentic faith in a culture where you were judged by the slogan on your t shirt and your ability to note everything you believed in a snappy two minute testimony. 

I often read Addie's blog How To Talk Evangelical, because her writing is beautiful and we have a lot in common. She is close to my age and we both grew up in families where church was an essential part of who we were. But that culture was also defined by how many WWJD bracelets you had and if you had signed a card pledging that "true love waits." Those experiences left many of us with scars. Addie handles her story (and ours) with grace and honesty. While she recognizes the hurt that she experienced, she also realizes that she caused pain for others. Instead of condemning, she invites readers on her journey of healing with the hope that they will heal too and we can move towards a more intentional, loving faith. 

This book doesn't just detail Addie's youth when she was on fire for God. It also takes us through her time away from the church, when she couldn't sit through another church service or Bible study where no one was willing to answer her questions or notice that she was deep in depression. But like all good stories, this one ends with hope. Addie knows that this imperfect group of believers will always make mistakes and we will always have the ability to hurt each other. But she also sees the beauty in our brokenness and believes that we can bring each other closer to God than we could ever get by ourselves. 

Addie is an incredibly talented writer. She is not just a woman with a good story to tell. Having read a bit about the process that Addie went through in writing this book, I know that it took a lot of work. But When We Were on Fire reads like she just sat down and, in one brilliant burst, wrote a book where her experiences and observations sing and dance off the page. This book manages to be very specific and universal within the same pages. This is Addie's story, but it's also the story of every child who grew up in a church and tried to do all of the right things, only to find that they couldn't stay on fire for their faith forever. This book is for every person who has felt left out, overlooked, under qualified, or burnt out. With great love and compassion, Addie Zierman tells us that we are not alone and shows us how to begin healing and come back to the broken but beautiful church. 


  1. This sounds like a powerful read Lindsey. I think I'd really like it!

    1. I loved it. Zierman is a very talented writer with a great story to tell!

  2. I am making a guess from the book description that I am not a member of the author's religion. But that makes not one iota of difference in the enjoyment of memoirs about faith. I have read at least 4 this year alone dealing with people's belief systems. I would like to read this and thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    1. I'm glad to share about this great book! What other spiritual memoirs have you read this year? I want to add to my tbr list. :)