Jamie Quatro

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Fire Sermon

book | Fiction | 2018
US → Grove Press (Ed. Elizabeth Schmitz)
UK & Comm → Picador Books (Ed. Paul Baggaley)

An unflinching and profound portrait of a marriage, Fire Sermon offers up Maggie and Thomas and their unfurling marriage. Jamie’s novel is a deeply affecting account of how alone and desperate we can find ourselves whilst in an outwardly successful relationship. 

After an acquaintance drifts into something emotionally and sexually complicated, Maggie questions her sense of morality, loyalty and happiness. Fire Sermon delves into the darkness of desire, our inherent vulnerability and how we measure out compassion. Buried within Maggie and Thomas’ story are uncomfortable and raw truths that should resonate universally and prompt us to question our own judgement. Alongside the unpicking of their marriage, Jamie delves into a provocative discussion on Christianity on an intellectual basis as Maggie questions her integral beliefs alongside her desire. This is a visceral, rich and devastating portrait of life and deserves to be widely read.


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Uitgeverij Atlas
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Libros Del Asteroide E.L.

 The sentences burn with desire and disquiet. The novel is generously condensed, ardently focused, its mechanism poetic, not expository...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 Time Book Review

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

A stunning first novel...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.”

Donna Seaman
Full Review

Charged with erotic energy and an almost mystical yearning, Jamie Quatro’s debut novel Fire Sermon is a tour de force exploration of lust, marriage, longing, and love...a virtuosic portrait of flesh-and-blood sensuality and the mystery of salvation.


Switching between erotically charged letters and just as inflamed vignettes (think Dept. of Speculation), this debut novel documents a wild affair. Maggie―wife, mother, and Christian―finds herself soul-searching, confessing, and downright reveling in her passion for a man who's not her husband. Don't get too close to the fire.

Estelle Tang
Elle, 19 of the Best Books to read this Winter

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 Dreamingand Another Brooklyn

Affecting and memorable. . . Quatro’s novel will appeal particularly to readers interested in a dissection of how one reconciles belief with desire

Publisher's Weekly

Quatro has a poet's compound eye [and] fearless lyricism . . . Expansive, joyful, with forgiveness supplanting ruination

James Wood
The New Yorker

Subtle, sexy, and reflective . . . There's so much in these stories that's shocking. Yet there's so much solace.

Dwight Garner
The New York Times

A dogged, brutally thoughtful piece of work, and gives us a writer of great originality and apparent artistic maturity who seems to have come out of nowhere ... Strange, thrilling, and disarmingly honest.

New York Times Book Review

Bright, sharp, startling, utterly distinctive, passionate, and secretive, Jamie Quatro's stories are missives from deep within the landscape of American womanhood. They take you by the heart and throat, shake you awake, and ask you to ponder the mysteries of love, parenthood, and marriage

David Means

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 Ripatrazone
Lit Hub

Jamie Quatro has taken one of the great themes - infidelity - and subjected it to her own exacting and poetic brand of scrutiny. At times painfully honest, always intensely felt, Fire Sermon is a moving and gripping novel of the emotions.

Rupert Thomson

I loved [Fire Sermon], 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. Quarto’s voice is singular, heartbreaking and gorgeous. This is a novel to be treasured.

Monica Ali

Written with a rhythmic pulse that reflects the desire it describes, Fire Sermon is a beautiful novel.

Megan Bradbury

Fire Sermon is magnificent, poised and alive.

David Coventry

The plot is simple: A married woman is trying to forget her lover. The book itself — erotic, spiritual, poetic — is anything but.

The New York Times

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

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

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

Fire Sermon reads like a prequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, and yet the world Quatro describes - a woman immersed in the Christian intellectual tradition; a life revolving around fidelity, submission, and honour; a woman grappling with temptation and renounciation - is also recogniseably our own. Passionate, vivid, and deeply questioning.

Sigrid Rausing

Fire Sermon moved me deeply, provoked me powerfully, and managed to reach parts of me I hadn't even known were there. It has so much to say about desire and what it means to commit yourself to a life, what it means to desire deeply what might destroy the life you've made for yourself. Quatro’s prose lives in both the mind and body, refusing to recognize any kind of meaningful border between them. This novel stays under the skin. I feel haunted by it, in all the best ways.

Leslie Jamison

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...The result is an impassioned, deeply moral exploration of devotion and “what’s waiting on the far side of fidelity.”


Heller McAlpin
San Francisco Chronicle

Vivid and intense, Fire Sermon can be read in a single afternoon...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.

The National Book Review
Full Review

Told through a variety of correspondence, journals and prayer, Fire Sermon is a fervent innovative take on an age-old story of infidelity and guilt.

Shelf Awareness

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.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Quatro’s writing has notable virtues. The book is told in vignettes, and every scene is vivid. Her dialogue rings true to life. When Quatro writes about sex, she conveys not only passion and sensation, but also a sense of physical intimacy

Hotty Toddy

...superb. Uncomfortable, ambiguous, erotic, theological, inconclusive and formally uncertain...On top of this is her first-rate prose and old-fashioned ability to tell a story...great fiction indeed.

(chosen as a TLS Book of the Year)

Eimear McBride
Times Literary Supplement

Tender and tumultuous, Fire Sermon is a remarkable novel written by a uniquely talented author.

Lucy Scholes
the Financial Times

A lyrical, experimental novel about faith and adultery, divine and erotic love, worship and transgression, from an accomplished writer of short stories.

(chosen as an Economist Book of the Year)

The Economist