Fire Sermon – Jamie Quatro

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“…I only know arousal within love—because I’ve never separated emotion from body—is my pattern to create a pretend love first, over and over, in order to feel desire, and desirable?”

“I admit that unless something is forbidden I cannot want it with any intensity….I admit that unless something is forbidden I can’t fucking feel anything.”

Forty-five year old Maggie Ellman has been married for twenty-three years, has two college aged children, and continually feels that something is missing in her life. She attended Princeton for her doctorate in comparative literature. She lost interest and so studied a field that was an intersection between poetry and theology. She then changed to eschatology and again lost interest. Upon moving to Nashville, she started another doctoral program at Vanderbilt.

“I admit to using my religious beliefs to manipulate, resisting temptation as a means of feeding my own desire.”  She tries to reconcile her guilt and strong religious beliefs with her actions and desires. The more she tries to analyze, the more confused she gets and the two opposites become fused together.

We try to put all this together to figure out what’s going on in Maggie’s head. Fire Sermon moves back and forth – from her wedding to current time, college, and emails between her and her “real” love, James Abbott, another poet.

I couldn’t put this book down as I enjoyed how the author expressed Maggie’s feelings and confusion, with a nice amount of eroticism that wasn’t over the top. Another major plus is the writing style; the literary cadence keeps the reader totally engaged.

Though I didn’t care about Maggie herself, I enjoyed trying to figure her out. That is where the suspense lies, as we aren’t concerned whether her husband will find out about her current affair; we wonder whether Maggie will ever resolve her issues.

Those who appreciate realistic psychological studies will enjoy this one.

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