Sarah Baughman

Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2018. 320 pages. Softcover. $12.99.

Reviewed by Deaconess Mary J. Moerbe, Trinity Lutheran Church, Blackwell, Oklahoma on 08/31/2018

People read historical fiction to better understand history, humanity, and the influence of ideas. Within this context, A Flame in the Dark is an asset and accomplishment.

A Flame in the Dark follows a fictional Wittenberg student, his sister, and the candle-making family who lodge him, immediately following the posting of the 95 Theses. By setting the story when Dr. Luther was a professor who daily interacted with students, Sarah Baughman is able to incorporate Reformation pastoral care and theological discussion into a realistic historical setting in intimate, plausible, and personable ways. The author addresses struggles including depression, grief, miscarriage, pregnancy outside of marriage, abuse, peer pressure, societal pressure, unwanted obligations and more. And, she does so to apply the gospel and encourage readers to grapple with Scripture in the midst of their everyday lives.

Baughman succeeds in introducing Reformation emphases including justification, vocation, suffering, and theology of the cross into her novel so that A Flame in the Dark demonstrates the far reaching influence of the Reformation. Baughman skillfully illustrates the intensity with which Reformation teaching affects individuals then and now, making her novel a blessing as a history lesson, evangelism tool, and discussion opportunity.