Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata

Simonetta Carr, Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2011).

In the interest of disclosure this review was written by a thirty-something-year-old man with the help of two young ladies under age five and a six year old boy. I mention this because Simonetta Carr's, Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata appears in P&R's "Chosen Daughters" historical fiction series written for teenage girls. Needless to say, my kids and I were well beyond the scope of the target audience of this book. It didn't matter; we loved it.

Weight of a Flame tells the true story of Olympia Morata, a sixteenth century Italian child prodigy who was groomed by her father, Fulvio, for an academic career. Tragically, Olympia dies before turning thirty, but not before receiving international attention for her precision in Greek and Latin as well as in Protestant theology. The tragedy of her death is tempered by an all-important lesson Olympia learns along her short journey: God uniquely gifts his children to live for his glory. Because Carr's first foray into historical fiction frequently reads like a psychological novel, revealing the unspoken thoughts of the young protagonist, readers can feel the "thick blanket of snow melting inside of her heart" as she reflects on the reality of Galatians 2:20 (p. 99) and first catches the vision for living soli Deo gloria.

Olympia's interaction with her father is particularly touching. Less than halfway through the book, I wasn't sure if my young daughters were tracking. But after the first eight words of chapter eight ("Fulvio died in the early days of autumn...") they simultaneously burst into tears. Olympia's affection for her father beautifully transitions into a lovely relationship with her Christ-like husband Andreas. The last half of the book is a romance novel in the best and most-biblical sense of the word. The only thing more beautiful than the blossoming love between this briefly-wed couple is Olympia's passion for Christ; a passion forged partly in the crucible of Inquisition-era persecution.  

Despite a sometimes overly-robust vocabulary including quite a number of foreign words, this book is a highly recommended and heartwarming introduction to an obscure but significant daughter of the Italian Reformation.