fire sermon

Jamie Quatro's debut novel, Fire Sermon, is forthcoming in January 2018 with Grove Press (U.S.), Picador (U.K.), Atlas Contact (The Netherlands), and Anansi International (Canada).


"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." -New York Times Book Review

"The state of marriage makes yearning possible, and yearning makes us burn, which Maggie (and perhaps Quatro) sees as a good and essential and human thing. I was stunned by the notion, and enchanted by the way the book built to a crystallized idea rather than a scene or an event—thinking as a dramatic gesture is a pleasure found more commonly in nonfiction than in fiction...By the time she’s done bobbing and weaving her way through her narrative, Quatro makes us feel the absolute necessity of desire, which she reveals as something shining: a hammered-gold necklace, begged for, worn twice, given away." -The Atlantic

"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

"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."New York Times Magazine

"Adultery may be a tale as old as time, but Quatro’s take is freshly urgent...Fire Sermon burns with emotional honesty. Unlike the great adulteresses of fiction, Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary, Quatro’s conflicted heroine is not miserably married; nor is her lover an unworthy boor. The result is an impassioned, deeply moral exploration of devotion and 'what’s waiting on the far side of fidelity.'” San Francisco Chronicle

"Affecting...powerful...Quatro's novel, full of vivid, mercurial prose, breathes new life into the subject [of adultery] and sets it gloriously ablaze." -O, The Oprah Magazine

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

“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.”—Elizabeth Taylor, National Book Review

"Charged with erotic energy and an almost mystical yearning, Jamie Quatro’s debut novel is a tour de force exploration of lust, marriage, longing, and love. . . Quatro’s special magic as a writer is her ability to illuminate and intensify Maggie’s secret (and ultimately finite) love affair so that it seems to resonate across decades of Maggie’s life, continuing to shape and inform her even as her marriage endures, her career thrives, and her children grow into adulthood. . . Fire Sermon is a virtuosic portrait of flesh-and-blood sensuality and the mystery of salvation." -ELLE

"In her slim, beautifully combustible first novel, 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." -Post & Courier 

"A stunning first novel about faith and yearning in the crucible of a strained marriage and a brief affair. . . Quatro charts Maggie's tormented grappling with desire and conscience in excruciatingly intimate scenes . . . 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

"Resonant...affecting and memorable. Quatro’s novel will appeal particularly to readers interested in a dissection of how one reconciles belief with desire. " — Publishers Weekly

“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, 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

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?” — 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.” -Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“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

“A lean first novel steeped in theology, suburban domesticity, literary criticism, child-rearing and, most dramatically, infidelity, Fire Sermonsizzles 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.”— Shelf Awareness 

“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

“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 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, author of Brick Lane

"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 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. 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, author of The Empathy Exams

“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 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 and The Wilderness

"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 renunciation - is also recogniseably our own. Passionate, vivid, and deeply questioning. — Sigrid Rausing, Editor of Granta and author of Mayhem

"Written with a rhythmic pulse that reflects the desire it describes, Fire Sermon is a beautiful novel." — Megan Bradbury, author of Everyone is Watching

"Fire Sermon is a book of radical acts and commitments, one that made me understand how these underpin our everyday lives and longings. It is a novel I won't soon forget." — Lauren Elkin, author of Flaneuse

"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, author of The Insult



Order a signed copy from Jamie's local bookseller!

Order a signed copy from Jamie's local bookseller!


"Fire Sermon is magnificent, poised and alive." — David Coventry, author of The Invisible Mile