Brief Reviews, VOLUME 3

Brief Review: Becoming Flame – Isabel Anders [Vol. 3, #33]

A Brief Review of
Becoming Flame: Uncommon Mother-Daughter Wisdom
Isabel Anders.
Paperback:  Wipf and Stock, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Angela Adams

Becoming Flame is a collection of dialogical wisdom, formatted as short, edifying conversations between Mother and Daughter on topics such as the monotony of daily tasks, insomnia and its requisite self-reflection, life and loss, the anxiety of decision making, and waiting for love—all familiar ground for every woman who will read this thin volume. To elevate Becoming Flame from banal “inspirational” books (I’m thinking Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul here), Anders draws deeply from writings of the Desert Mothers, the tradition of Divine Feminine, her experience as a woman and mother, and her own deep connection to Wisdom. The result is that Becoming Flame goes before us as a sacred text, marking the way as we “are what [we] should be. . . ” so we “. . . will set the whole world on fire” (6).

While some might wish Becoming Flame incorporated more formal feminist theology, what Anders has offered instead is an unacademic and uncontroversial compilation of uniquely feminine dialogical wisdom. According to Anders, “the language and process of becoming flame are drawn from a feminine wisdom that includes three basic components: a healthy receptivity to what is; an openness to fullness of being; and active employment of “practical love” (55). Anders has an obvious knack for blending all three with grace and finesse, kneading and making Wisdom as if it were bread (6).

I doubt that Becoming Flame will bring huge revelations about God or self to readers. But what I do fully expect is that readers will experience minor epiphanies about their own behavior and the patterns of life, find inspiration to persist in their present circumstances, and that through Anders’ carefully crafted words, Wisdom will bring peace. Take, for example, my favorite excerpt (which calmed my anxiety in the midst of house hunting!):

“Is there truly a Plan,” asked the Daughter, “that can guide me in every decision and assure me that I am choosing rightly?”

“You must bring your whole self to that question. Then, at the point where your deepest conviction intersects the line of present opportunity, you will be shown the Way. That is all we can ask for on this Earth,” said her Mother (38).

Becoming Flame includes a moving afterword, insightful notes, and group study questions for those interested in going deeper, but to be frank, by the end of Becoming Flame’s 59 pages, I found myself just longing for more conversation. Yet at the same time, I was glad that Anders did not write more if she would have been relying on her own wisdom—or even worse, artificially forcing more to come.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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