Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro - A Book Review by Eleanor Howard
Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro, published in January 2018 by Grove Press, is a sensual literary fiction coupling modern day infidelity with broad religious beliefs and sought-after redemption. The familiar story of forbidden love follows protagonist Maggie and her marriage to Thomas when she has an extramarital affair with a married poet, James. Fire Sermon is told from a woman’s perspective of carnal desire and gratifying seduction.
I was fortunate to attend Quatro’s Fire Sermon book launch at the Southern Lit Alliance in January when she aptly addressed the audience question, “What does your husband think of your writing about infidelity?” Jamie’s response, “If I were a man, the question wouldn’t be asked.” That confident answer resonates throughout her novel. She deftly explores a woman’s physical yearning for her intellectual soulmate while justifying her emotional and spiritual well-being. In one section she writes, “I admit to using my religious beliefs to manipulate, resisting temptation as a means of feeding my own desire.”
The initial platonic commonalities between Maggie and James entice and warm the reader into a heated story that goes deeper than infidelity. A series of events and emails ignite the relationship between Maggie and one of her favorite poets, and manifests into physical desire. In what begins as an intellectual, academic affair sharing passion for literature and poetry, Maggie the novice shares her poetry work with the master, James, thereby exposing a piece of herself previously withheld from her husband. James awakes and ignites Maggie’s previously dormant passion and uncovers a powerful spark between them. They develop a private love language with each other through literature and poetry.
Maggie and James’ burning obsession challenges whether or not their passion is “cosmically ordained” while addressing the spiritual unholiness and unfaithfulness to their marriages. Maggie’s self-persecution is exacerbated because she and James admit their spouses are faultless even as the two are unwilling to douse the arousal between them. What began as adultery of the mind ignited their spirit and discovered a place deep within them that their spouses had not reached. The lovers offered their bodies as a consummation of that incandescent intellectual passion.
Fire Sermon is a sensual novel that explores Maggie’s smoldering desires coupled the guilt inferno of infidelity with her own religious salvation. Infidelity, by definition, is the action of being unfaithful to a spouse, but also the unbelief in a particular religion. In one intense and raw chapter, Maggie doubts her spirituality and explores different religions as a crescendo questioning everything she has learned about passion and awakening. How can one reach nirvana unless burning in the fire of it? Can desire enhance spirituality after falling from grace? This novel considers the basic human desire of being loved, but more so being understood. As a happily married woman of nearly 18 years, I found Quatro’s treatment to be a brave exploration that dared to cross lines of honest intellectual attraction and spiritual guilt and regret.
Fire Sermon is a 2018 #Okrapick. Learn more about Jamie and her other story collection, I Want to Show You More, on her website JamieQuatro.com or find her on Twitter @jamiequatro
Eleanor Howard is a Writer, Blogger and future Author. Discover more at www.EleanorHoward.com and connect with her on Facebook at @EleanorHowardWriter and Twitter @writerEleanor