Fire Sermon

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 Jan 2018

Member Reviews

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.

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...

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This title was rather kindly sent to me by the publishers, Grove/Atlantic. This review has also been published to GoodReads, LinkedIn, and my social media accounts.

The review:

Fire Sermon is not a love story. It is not a tale of adultery, or a novel about lust or passion. It is a novel about Love, its nature and many expressions, and a woman's desperate longing for that all-encompassing love and for beauty, and for a coherent and cohesive life.

Maggie, an academic doing research in Theology, was brought up within a traditional, closed-mind evangelical church. Her religion, her faith and its teaching are of paramount importance for her, expressed not just in the principles for a...

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Fire Sermon is an intense look at a woman's struggle to fit within her definition of a faithful wife and a person of faith.
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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 Maggie’s lifetime. Shifting back and forth through time, the story recounts the beginning of her marriage to Thomas, the intense moment when she and poet James decide to go to a hotel together and the...

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Buddha’s Ādittapariyāya Sutta or Fire Sermon Discourse is the third discourse delivered after his enlightenment. In the text, Buddha preaches about achieving liberation from suffering through detachment from the five senses and mind. After reading Jamie Quatro’s debut novel Fire Sermon, the inner anguish experienced by Quatro’s main character Maggie, suddenly becomes clear.

Buddha described in the Fire Sermons that every aspect of life experiences are known as “burning,” explaining that it applies to “pleasant and unpleasant phenomena alike.” It’s evident that Quatro uses the Fire Sermon teachings to ignite Maggie’s own confusions and emotional dilemmas. Specifically when she starts...

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ormally speaking, this book is great. Instead of having a linear narration of the married life and affair of Maggie, Quatro emulates the complexity and messiness of life through a text going back and forth between past and present, sometimes through straigthtforward narrative chapters, sometimes through email exchanges, or dialogues with an unidentified person. The result makes for an attractive reading experience, one that renews interest in the theme as old as world of the middle-aged affair in a less-than-perfect marriage.
However, in the end, I was left with the nagging impression that Maggie's willingness to suffer her husband's abusive approach to sex for the sake of their...

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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 enthusiasm.

Clearly the author has a way with words - certain sections are rendered in lovely, lyrical prose - but then, others get so bogged down in uninteresting...

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It was different than I expected from other reviews. I expected more narrative, but it felt closer to a woven stream-of-consciousness. I expected a conclusion, but found questions. And the prose was lovely and the feelings true, so I much preferred the reality to the expectation.
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Maggie and Thomas have been married for years, raised a family, and now are in middle age. Maggie has strayed from her marriage and now tries to reconcile her religious beliefs with what she feels.

This story is not just non-linear, it jumps from from action to Maggie's pondering on religion without any notice. We go back and forth from past to present, slowly learning how Maggie arrived at this place in her life.

There were a couple things I found problematic with this novel. The style did nothing for me in terms of furthering the story. The main issue I had though was not with the style; the problem was the characters. I could not connect to them at all, which made it difficult...

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I would not recommend this book to anyone. It is non-sensical ramblings on sex and God without enough punctuation or chapters, flippng back and forth in time with little to no warning making it difficult to figure out what year you were in. I could not find anything I liked.
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He was her first partner and is supposed to be her last. Meggie and Thomas have been married for more than 20 years, raised to nice children and, if looked at from the outside, a perfect life. When Meggie discovers the poet James and writes to him because he seems to be the one who can express what she, too, feels, she sets in motion a chain of events. Months of e-mails, James and Maggie get closer and closer on an emotional basis. Then they finally meet and the faithful believer Maggie and -especially her body – reacts in a way she has never believed to be possible. It is a short encounter, and a second, not even a real affair, but a bond has been created which threatens their lives as...

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This sounded like it would be an intriguing book and I have a few friends I know would enjoy it; but the constant back and forth in time plus the angst about how they 'shouldn't be doing it' made for tedious reading for me.  I didn't find the characters especially likable and it all seemed so repetitive.  The writing was beautiful in some places, though, so the author shows promise.
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Wonderful,wonderful, wonderful!  This is a 
most beautiful book.  Maggie, the main character has a very hard time navigating her way through an affair due to her Christianity and her love for husband and family.  She has enormous guilt but also an overwhelming sexual desire and love for her lover.  This author has taken a subject that is commonplace and put a completely different spin on it.  I can't say enough good about this book, it is one of the best.
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For a book of such initial intensity and with such a compelling synopsis I found this overall fell a little short for me. This was mainly to do with the back-and-forth narrative that just didn't gel with me, (but this may have been more to due with the proof copy formatting that did not differentiate between present and past tense with even a paragraph break) and I felt a continual jarring sensation as I attempted to acclimatise myself after each of these shifts. This brings up some interesting points of discourse but, as a story, was lacking something for me.
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An interesting take on an affair, that takes part mostly at an intellectual level over years, but which eventually crosses over into the physical with far reaching effects. Writer Maggie connects with poet James, initially on a professional level. Both of them are married with children, yet they develop a flirtatious relationship.
As the story progresses, they meet up and things slowly develop. Viewed from Maggie's point of view, we see her struggle with temptation and her faith, and i have to admit this is where the story lost me a bit as the theological aspects took over more, and I could relate less and less to her internal monologues. Ideally the reader needs to be able to...

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Poetry, religion, sex.  This is a hard one to review because at times it's quite annoying - almost pretentious-and at others it's fascinating.  Maggie's love triangle with her husband Thomas and the poet James is really larger than that as she explores her faith as well.  It's a quick read that raises more questions than it answers.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.
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Not posting a review since this book was not a good fit for me.
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Jamie Quatro uses different mediums (email, poetry, dialogue, inner thoughts, and narration) to describe Maggie Ellman's journey through twenty years of marriage. Maggie graduated from college at twenty and married Thomas in a breathtaking setting in Malibu. Thomas had a job on Wall Street, NY, and Maggie began graduate school at Princeton.

Maggie grew up in an evangelical family, and throughout the story, she contemplates theology of different religions, interspersed with the story of her life with Thomas. Maggie had two children, two dramatic births and settled into life in Nashville in a beautiful home. Maggie eventually drops the idea of finishing her Ph.D. and teaches at a...

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For me, the marks of a great book are that I a) am constantly highlighting bits of beautiful prose and b) am not so bogged down by the beautiful prose that the plot and characters don't carry me relatively swiftly towards the novel's conclusion. Quatro's 'Fire Sermon' meets both of these criteria. It's a wonderful insight into women, marriage and desire and contains a number of passages that would qualify it for the good sex awards, if such a thing existed.
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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 conflicted person. And once I fell in step with its rhythm, I really appreciated the fragmented writing--snippets of thoughts, emails, conversations, and inner dialogues with Maggie's Christian God and a...

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