FIRE SERMON by Jamie Quatro


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An intellectual writer wrestles with her infidelity, and her loss of interest in her husband, in the context of her Christianity.

“I imagine writing all this down and giving the manuscript to my agent…This has been done to death, she says. I won’t be able to sell this…So you see: There is no one left to whom I can confess. No one who will listen or understand. There is you, and there is God. I’m not sure, anymore, there’s a difference.” The person whom Quatro’s (I Want to Show You More, 2013) narrator, Maggie, is addressing—and is having trouble distinguishing from the deity—is James, a Princeton University–based poet she met via a fan letter, then carried on a heated correspondence with, followed by a handful of live encounters. The story, mostly set between 2013 and 2018, has been put in the blender (if there is a God, can he bring back chronological order to contemporary fiction?) and parceled out in vignettes, emails, letters, prayers, transcripts of therapy sessions, and the “fire sermon” of the book’s title. As the narrator suspects in the lines quoted above, this will be a lot to swallow for some readers, religious faith creating an extremely grandiose context for the tossing and turning Maggie goes through as she deals with her desire and her guilt. “Would we have allowed ourselves to do, inside a church, what we did in Chicago? What might have happened, had we done those things in a sacred space? I imagine statues beginning to weep, blood curling down the carved marble ankles on the crucifix above the altar, For this moment I died, for this moment I am always dying, every moment for all eternity I am bleeding so they can sit in the pew in this sanctuary…he sliding a hand inside the ripped knee of her jeans to feel the skin of her thigh….

The people who connect with this debut novel are going to love it, and everyone else is going to roll their eyes and throw it across the room.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2704-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2017


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