[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”082544554X” locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/51IV2UZmOL.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]A God-Illuminated World
A Brief Review of
Flame in the Night:
A Novel of
World War II France
Paperback: Kregel, 2018
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Reviewed by Tim Otto
Flame in the Night, Heather Munn’s new young adult book, takes place in a dark time in which a populist head-of-state scapegoats immigrants, glorifies military might, and calls for worship of the nation-state. The majority of Christians not only don’t resist, they cooperate. In one place however, a witness blazes forth as Christians bravely and sacrificially defy the night. Flame in the Night explores the character and practices that fuel such a community.
While some readers may feel wary of yet another novel set in World War II, Munn finds a unique angle by setting the action in south central France on a plateau inhabited by Huguenots—people who, given their own history of persecution, hide those being hunted in Vichy France by the Nazis. Because of Munn’s meticulous research, the details are vivid and the plot twists—often based on things that happened— give the novel the unpredictable feel of the real.
Julien, who has just turned 18, lives with his Jewish best friend Benjamin, and is falling in love with a Jewish girl named Elisa. As the night deepens, both of them are in mortal danger. The combination of a demonic time and teenage hormones serves to sharpen the questions: Why trust a God who isn’t showing up for the people we passionately love? Why not fight violence with violence? Does the story of scripture have anything worthwhile to teach us or does it make people more susceptible to cooperation with evil?
Munn does not attempt to answer any of these questions with glib propositional truths. There is however, a climactic moment in the book that crystallizes the goodness and beauty and mystery of a God-illuminated world. While the questions don’t disappear, the power of this satisfying and robust story makes one want to fight for God’s cause. If you, or a teenager you know, is struggling with such questions in our own fraught and murky time, Flame in the Night offers a bonfire.
Tim Otto is a pastor at the live-together community, the Church of the Sojourners. He is also the author of Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships. You can find him on Twitter at: @Tim_Otto.
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: C-Christopher-Smith.com