Fire Sermon

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$24.00  $22.32
Grove Press
Publish Date
5.8 X 8.4 X 1.0 inches | 0.8 pounds

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About the Author
JAMIE QUATRO is the author of I Want To Show You More. She is a visiting professor in the Sewanee School of Letters MFA program, a contributing editor at Oxford American, and lives with her husband and children in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
Praise for Fire Sermon

"There are books with front doors, through which the reader walks right in, and there are books with side doors. Side door books take more interpretive work, but yield special pleasures. Jamie Quatro's fantastic new novel, Fire Sermon, is a side door book. The novel delivers its story through a variety of methods: first-person confessions, "fictional" third-person descriptions, letters sent and unsent, emails, questionnaires, Socratic dialogues with the self. Roiling, raw and sensual on the surface, this mazy novel rewards a second reading... The sentences burn with desire and disquiet. The novel is generously condensed, ardently focused, its mechanisms poetic, not expository. In fact, although it is fiction, Fire Sermon reminds me most of confessional poetry, the aim of which is uncompromising honesty and self-exposure. .. You may enter this book through an interest in poetry or theology, but once you are there, it shows you more."--Amity Gaige, New York Times Book Review

"Quatro's novel, full of vivid, mercurial prose, breathes new life into the subject and sets it gloriously ablaze."--Claire Luchette, O Magazine

"Nothing on Earth has ever not been about the passage of time -- not a film, a poem, a cave painting, a house, a poncho, a comic book, a snowman or a fugue. But some art is particularly obsessed....Jamie Quatro, in her very sad first novel, Fire Sermon, squeezes large flows of time into a book as thin as my little finger. Time haunts every sentence.... The reader is left to intuit all the life those numbers once contained -- the people who lived then, the children who memorized the numbers, the parents who helped them do the memorizing. And then of course we think of our own number, and what it might mean to someone who might memorize it someday, and what it feels like, right now, to be inside of it: 2018."--Sam Anderson, New York Times Magazine

"Charged with erotic energy and an almost mystical yearning, Jamie Quatro's debut novel, Fire Sermon (Grove Atlantic), is a tour de force exploration of lust, marriage, longing, and love. ... exploring the tensions that play out when heightened sexual desire, intellectual frisson, and having one's beliefs tested meet the quotidian routines and rewards of work, family, and faith. ... Incorporating a mix of narrative styles from epistolary to confessional to flashback, Fire Sermon is a virtuosic portrait of flesh-and-blood sensuality and the mystery of salvation." -Lisa Shea, ELLE

"Five years on and in her incendiary first novel, Fire Sermon, Quatro introduces another female protagonist and deals with the same burning issues of faith and faithlessness, only this time with greater scrutiny and intensity and with more miraculous results...As with Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, Fire Sermon examines infidelity by deftly balancing the sexual and the spiritual. There is agony and ecstasy, and the tantalizing hope of redemption through confession. All is rendered with fierce intelligence and lyrical grace. Passionate and intimate, few first novels are so adept at tracking 'the guiltiest swervings of the weaving heart.'"--Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Adultery may be a tale as old as time, but Quatro's take is freshly urgent, as she grapples with themes of desire, sin, commitment, guilt and renunciation while writing frankly about both marital and extramarital sex."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Startlingly original... a profound, and profoundly strange, meditation on desire and how it connects us to the "eternal." . . . Quatro makes us feel the absolute necessity of desire."--Claire Dederer, The Atlantic

"A powerful psychological meditation on erotic desire... [Quatro's] descriptions of yearning are beautifully pitched... [Maggie's] infatuation is grounded in many beautiful and humane observations."--Johanna Thomas-Corr, London Evening Standard

"Fire Sermon offers a radical, transformative vision of the intersection between faith and desire. It is a book that takes sin seriously--and compels readers to see how eternal concerns can make for great, and disturbing, fiction." -Nick Ripatrizone, Literary Hub

"Quatro is a true cartographer of desire, showing that the longings of the body and the soul aren't two autonomous states but constitute a singularly vast and singularly wild territory. Her fiction is sexy, it's theological, and it's consistently and surprisingly both at the same time." -Anthony Domestico, Commonweal

"With short chapters, each packing an emotional and linguistic punch, this book is intensely beautiful." - Ilana Masad, Book Riot

"Quatro follows her dazzling 2013 short fiction collection with a debut novel that updates the familiar infidelity story. Vivid and intense, Fire Sermon can be read in a single afternoon, its velocity propelled by the extraordinary voice of its narrator. Quatro eschews a traditional, linear chronicle of marriage for a structure that more closely mirrors a questioning mind: a series of flashbacks juxtaposed with flashes forward; bits of dialogue, poetry, theology, and philosophy; and Maggie arguing with herself in a way that is intimate, raw, and psychologically fascinating."--National Book Review

"Fire Sermon transcends the familiarity of its subject matter through its formal originality, its erudite meditations on the intersections of religious devotion and erotic desire, and the breathtaking lyricism of Jamie Quatro's prose, which manages somehow to be both intensely elegiac and as fluent as good conversation...There are so many moments in this fine debut that call to be read and re-read, flipped over and scrutinized--moments of searing, painful truth and gorgeously articulated delusion which ring with their own sort of truth about the lengths to which we will go to make sense of the inexplicable. Isn't this the task of great fiction?"--Ed Tarkington, Chapter 16

"With Fire Sermon, Jamie Quatro challenges the reader to navigate the jumble of desire, religion and love and how perhaps a gripping affair might just be the ultimate salvation of a stalled marriage... a worthwhile and engrossing read."-- Adriana Delgado, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"In her slim, beautifully combustible first novel, Fire Sermon, Jamie Quatro treats the mysteries and complexities of love, marriage, faith and infidelity like the highly flammable subjects they are -- elements of light, heat, energy -- as fundamental as they are dangerous. With searing prose and a tilted approach, Quatro builds a bonfire from the tiniest sparks of well-honed detail, and this reader was drawn to its flame." -Stehanie Hunt Special, Charleston Post Courier

"A curious novel, an extended plea by protagonist Maggie for some means of reconciling her juicy adultery with her worn-out religious faith...The book's curiousness ignites curiosity, demonstrating why most of us are willing to be gobbled up by the flames of sin at least once in our lives."--Bethanne Patrick, Literary Hub "15 Books You Should Read This January"

"A stunning first novel about faith and yearning in the crucible of a strained marriage and a brief affair...The lyric cadence of Quatro's writing gets into one's veins as she stealthily transforms the most common of plotlines into a scorching analysis of the 'agony of temptation, ' prayer, the relationship between Eros and the divine, and a 'renewed sense of holiness.' Maggie longs for a 'return to a viable literature of faith.' Quatro infuses that tradition with fresh, molten energy."¯Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Affecting and memorable. . . Quatro's novel will appeal particularly to readers interested in a dissection of how one reconciles belief with desire"--Publishers Weekly

"A lean first novel steeped in theology, suburban domesticity, literary criticism, child-rearing and, most dramatically, infidelity, Fire Sermon sizzles and cools to the rhythm of its narrator Maggie's moods and meanderings.... Besides old-school letters and e-mails, [the] novel is built on Maggie's journal entries, dialogues with her counselor, poetry, conversations with her daughter's therapist and prayers. The result is a psychological MRI of a complicated woman seeking to know herself inside and out... a contemporary take on an age-old story."--Bruce Jacobs, Shelf Awareness

"What an absolutely beautiful and moving book. I started reading Fire Sermon and literally, was cranky when I couldn't get back to it. The writing is nothing less than masterful. I've always been a HUGE fan of Jamie Quatro but now she's taking my fandom to another level."--Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn

"I devoured this novel! Quatro is a fearless marvel. An exquisite story of female desire, faith, and commitment and one of the most haunting portraits of a marriage I've ever read."--Lily King, author of Euphoria
"Fire Sermon moved me deeply, provoked me powerfully, and managed to reach parts of me I hadn't even known were there. This novel stays under the skin. I feel haunted by it, in all the best ways."--Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

"It would be difficult to overstate the wonder I felt while reading this novel. It's among the most beautiful books I've ever read about longing--for beauty, for sex, for God, for a coherent life. Great writers write with their whole lives, with everything they have seen and thought and felt, with their obsessions and their desires; their books have the density and richness of existence. Jamie Quatro is a such a writer, and Fire Sermon is such a book."--Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

"This book is bright and dark by turns but always shot through with a vital, unerring grace. Plus it's about love and death, sex and God. What more could a reader want?"--Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation

"I loved it, and devoured it in one sitting. It's a breathtakingly beautiful novel. The simplicity of the story sits in perfect counterpoint to the complex narrative structure. It is simultaneously visceral and cerebral, precise and expansive, domestic and metaphysical, plain-speaking and poetic. Quatro's voice is singular, heartbreaking and gorgeous. This is a novel to be treasured."--Monica Ali, author of Brick Lane

"It's rare, to the point of near non-existence, to find a book that has such literary weight and heft, yet reads like a sonnet. I look at it in puzzlement, wondering how Jamie Quatro gave such breadth, depth and intensity in so few words. And it's funny, and real, and painful, so painful. Also a shot of light. An education. A mirror. Terrifying."--Samantha Harvey, author of Dear, Thief