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Fire Sermon

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,236 ratings  ·  445 reviews
Married twenty years to Thomas and living in Nashville with their two children, Maggie is drawn ineluctably into a passionate affair while still fiercely committed to her husband and family. What begins as a platonic intellectual and spiritual exchange between writer Maggie and poet James, gradually transforms into an emotional and erotically charged bond that challenges M ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 9th 2018 by Grove Press
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Average rating 3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,236 ratings  ·  445 reviews

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Larry H
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
When Garth Greenwell, whose book What Belongs To You (see my review), absolutely blew me away last year (it even ranked in the top five of the best books I read in 2016), took a pause from his social media hiatus to encourage people to read Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon because of its absolute beauty, you can believe I listened.

I've got to say, Greenwell didn't steer me wrong. This book contains some of the most gorgeous prose I've read in some time, although the book as a whole didn't quit
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Fire Sermon is a short intense book that can be read in one sitting. It flits back and forth in time, as Maggie struggles with her faith, her love for her husband Thomas, and her desire for possible lover James. I suppose the underlying story is familiar, but the execution is potent and at times beautifully written. The sex is fraught, and at times explicitly so. The emotions are uncomfortable, but not shocking to be shocking--rather, they feel like the honest complicated emotions of a conflicte ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
***Warning: This book might lead to excessive face-palming*** I found this tale about an evangelical woman who married young and now lusts for sexual experiences outside marriage pretty stale. The protagonist, Maggie, is 45, her children have left for college, and while her husband still wants to have sex, it's an ordeal for her - until she falls in love with a formalist poet (yes, you read that right: we're learning about the sex-appeal of formalism vs. the doctrines of the church). They exchan ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book in a day. I loved the varied styles and timeline that moves around, the lyric writing, and the subject matter. It is an honest look at a long marriage, and the attraction, connection, and other forces that can pull you away or bring you back. Since both central characters are academics, they have pretty deep conversations about religion, philosophy, desire, guilt, and I enjoyed this part of it too.

I will be ordering my own copy for rereading!

ETA: This is a great article ab
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My first "wow" book of the year, so I'm celebrating with a star rating. Good lord this book is good. Video review coming soon. ...more
Maggie is brought up in an evangelical family. She marries, and has children, young. Twenty years later, feeling trapped – and sick of her husband Thomas's pushy approach to sex – Maggie has an affair with James, a poet. Fire Sermon jumps back and forth through time, and in and out of Maggie's own first-person account, as it chronicles her life. That affair, as much an emotional and intellectual relationship as it is physical, is at the core of everything. Maggie traces her timeline backwards, o ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Quatro’s portrayal of her protagonist’s marriage and family life was so rich, unclichéd, and deeply deeply powerful that this was a 4-star read (later downgraded to 3 stars) for me despite having hate-read much of the central story, about her affair: that core narrative was, by comparison, weak, uninteresting, marred by some of the worst sex writing in all of literature, and laden with literary and religious pretension. But the family story was so incredible that I can’t help exclaiming that Qua ...more
Diane S ☔
I am leaving this unrated. The author has I know intellectually done something unique. Combining guilt, infidelity, marriage and children, while struggling with Christian values. But I can't connect to these characters, so well written but alas not for me. ...more
Rating: Good

Genre: Literary Fiction

Fire Sermon is the story of Maggie, an evangelical married woman who is bored of her marriage and resorts to a sexual relationship with another man. She finds herself trapped between desire and guilt. Whenever she feels the guilt of cheating on her husband Thomas, she indulges deeper in her sinful desires with James. It feels like there is no escape for her and no other way to get out of this mess.

The story is a combination of adultery and religion, guilt and
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeannie by: Larry H
Shelves: 2018
I picked this up at my library yesterday after reading an excellent review by Larry H here on GR. What an addictive read, I could not put it down!
lark benobi
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, grove
Jamie Quatro sets for herself the enormous task of wanting us to believe in a character who feels equal passion for her faith, her intellect, and her pursuit of erotic fulfillment. Does Quatro succeed in her task of making Maggie believable, her struggles real? She did for me.

I was raised in a deeply religious household and Maggie's choices felt right to me. Because my view is through the lens of childhood upbringing, it's impossible for me to say whether this story will work for someone withou
Jessica Sullivan
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The chase itself will turn us into monsters if we don't give it up."

This is an excruciatingly intimate little novel about a woman, Maggie, balancing her devotion to her husband, Thomas, with her desire for another man, James.

Vignettes of Maggie's family life—all the mundane snippets—are juxtaposed with her intellectually, spiritually and emotionally charged email correspondences and encounters with James. Complicating matters even more is Maggie's Christianity and profound devotion to God.

Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The most intellectually stimulating novel about infidelity I’ve ever read – and let’s face it if you read lit fiction you’ve read a lot of books about infidelity. There’s so much James Salter in this book and it had me aching to re-read him. Quatro has done something very special and literary and poetic here.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I don’t think this book is really about what the book blurb suggests it is about. If you read the blurb, you think you will be reading a story about a woman (Maggie) who gradually falls in love with a poet she has a exchange of correspondence with (James). Then she has to deal with the guilt she feels over that because she is still committed to her husband (Thomas) and her two children.

If I am honest, that would not be a very interesting story. Maggie is an author and at one point she even says
The intensity of love with the dark elements of religious obsession is explored in Jamie Quatro’s debut novel: Fire Sermon. Multiple levels of longing combined with the fury of passionate lust fuel an illicit relationship outside the routine stability of marriage. Maggie, a wife, mother of two college age students, was a writer based in Nashville where she connected with her lover. Maggie and James had been corresponding by email, text and phone conversations before his arrival in Nashville to t ...more
Briar's Reviews
This book was my best surprise of the year. To be honest, I just picked up a random book from my shelf. I decided that I would just take a very un-calculated risk and pick up whatever book my eyes went to - and this book was it.

Fire Sermon is an incredible novel following the journey of a religious woman who begins to have an affair on her husband. The narrative is not your typical romance novel, it's truly a dramatic unfolding of the character. I loved this character study and how beautifully J
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5, rounded up. Like a guilty paramour leaving an unsatisfying relationship, I almost want to apologize to this book, saying "Honestly, it's not you - it's me"! But then again, if I had only felt any connection to this tale of the unrelieved religious guilt caused by a momentary affair, told from the point of view of a married female poet/academic ... but I didn't, so I have to feel the author's lack of extracting universal truths from these specifics bears some responsibility for my lack of en ...more
Eric Anderson
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many books focus on romantic affairs, but it takes something special to shed new light on this common subject. Two of my all-time favourite novels that explore the dynamics of an affair are Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” and Anne Enright’s “The Forgotten Waltz” which both feel so searingly honest in portraying the complicated emotions of all three of the people involved. Jamie Quatro’s “Fire Sermon” adds an entirely new dynamic charting the trajectory of an affair over her protagonist Ma ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Jamie Quatro is a fine writer and the last 50 pages of this book were so elegantly written that I wished the entire book had lived up to this promise. But like writers before her, Jamie Quatro strives to align an understanding and devotion to God with a so-called sinful extramarital affair. For this non-believer, it did not work.

Maggie is married to Thomas, an imperfect man and father of her two children, who strives and often succeeds in being a good husband. Somewhere along the line, she begin
Edward  Goetz
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, 2018
I really like this book and the author's distinct voice. The book reminded me of Ian McEwan's "On Chesil Beach," a favorite of mine. There is a somewhat similar plot regarding marriage. ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
I don't understand if this is a truly awful book or the author was being provocative.
I surely hope for the second, because if not, this book can be read as an apology for domestic rape.A strong one. This book tries to convince us that this husband is a good person with a bad habit, that is raping his wife when she is not in the mood for sex. Nobody is perfect ,right?
Maggie, the protagonist, thinks that it's okey to be raped because she feels guilty for not wanting to have sex.
Also, the author tr
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I mean, beyond the whole factor of how much am i really expected to care about these two smug rich people emailing poetry and Bach recitals to each other (is this how intellectuals flirt?)...beyond that, are all these passages that start with lines like 'Here is house'...and time doesn't pass, no 'Invisible, relentless, the erosion of human imprint upon the planet'...i mean the writing is all like 'The gathered years: grains of spilled salt brushed from a table into an open palm' *throws up* It' ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
There are parts of this book that are so beautifully written. For me, they are the descriptions, however banal they may seem to some, of the place where the family lived, or the color of the water - peridot. One can ease down into them, becoming lost in one’s own memories. There are parts of this book that are so alien to me that I confess to hurrying through. When Quatro desperately wants to impress her reader, her critics, or is it herself, with her theories about religion, guilt, etc. I start ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
There's a lot to distill in this book and I should preface this review with the disclaimer that I probably have way too many filters that I'm viewing the content through, to be able to review this book in a way that seems adequate, fair and non-judgy.

Here's the bottom line: it's another book about a bored housewife who is entering into middle age, has an affair and convinces herself that her affair partner is actually the man that she should have ended up with. Sound familiar? That's because it
Robert Sheard
I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars for this one, an unpopular opinion, I know. Everyone hails this book as startlingly original. But as the main character even admits, Maggie is every cliché in the book. It's a story about adultery, and the main character's attempts to excuse it by wrapping it in pretentious literary and religious philosophy. She's a former academic, her lover is a formalist poet with "sight" tattooed on one wrist and "vision" on the other. Let the eye-rolling commence. Part Two is ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jamie Quatro’s debut novel, Fire Sermon, does something that I have never seen in a mainstream contemporary novel: it introduces an objective moral dimension to a fairly standard emotional dilemma. In other words, Quatro’s protagonist Maggie believes strongly and passionately in God, and also enters into an emotional affair (which, don’t you worry, becomes very physical) with a fellow writer, James. What saves this book from being another novel about sad white writers in bad marriages (thanks to ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I had to think about this one a bit before writing my review. I did enjoy the poetic writing style, although it got a little confusing at times as it abruptly switches POV and timelines. There is a lot of heart and raw emotion in this book, but I really disliked the protagonist. I was bothered by her victim attitude and the agonizing over her religious convictions and guilt around the choices that she willingly made. I kind of wanted to smack her.
Life is messy. And sometimes we make it messier still. Take Margaret – or Maggie, to her friends. She comes from a well-off and tight-knit family which has given her a comfortable and solid upbringing. Raised an Evangelical, she remains a committed Christian into adulthood. Indeed, her approach to religion is quite intellectual, with a lively interest in comparative religions (and particularly the contrast between Western and Eastern faiths), early Church fathers and mysticism. Maggie is an acad ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars

Another one of those novels that I could feel was trying so hard to be Deep and Intellectual but that did absolutely nothing for me emotionally.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite finding the religious content of this slightly alienating, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The mix of mediums and time frames, the lyrical nature of the prose, the palpable pain and guilt of the narrator - Jamie Quatro sure can write, and I'll definitely be checking out her short story collection in the future. ...more
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Jamie Quatro’s debut novel, FIRE SERMON (Grove, Jan 2018) is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and an Indie Next pick for spring 2018. Her 2013 collection I WANT TO SHOW YOU MORE was a New York Times Notable Book, NPR Best Book of 2013, Indie Next pick, O, The Oprah Magazine Summer Reading pick, and New York Times Editors’ Choice. The collection was named a Top 10 Book of 2013 by Dw

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“C. S. Lewis says that if we were able to return to the locus of our nostalgia, the place or person or spot of time in which we experienced joy, we would find only more nostalgia. As far back as we could go—a view from a childhood window, patterned light on a nursery wall—we would find only an unsatisfied desire that is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. An indication not of the illusion of our existence, but of its ultimate reality elsewhere. A home we once knew but can’t quite remember, to which we will someday return.” 4 likes
“Raised in love, money, and the certainty of God’s favor—money the indication of God’s favor, an idea so insidious she won’t recognize it till she’s in her forties.” 2 likes
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