Review: 'Fire Sermon' a combustable ode to devotion

FIRE SERMON . By Jamie Quatro. Grove Press. 205 pages. $24. 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. The story revolves around a 3-year-long emotional affair between two writers, Maggie and James. Maggie, like the author, is a married mother of two living in Tennessee, and a writer and teacher, but a poet at heart, whose literary passions and ambitions get tamped down by academia and motherhood. James is her literary alter ego — a famous poet with tattooed wrists ( sight on one hand, vision on the other) — and they discover a shared love of Melville, Aquinas, Plato and Bach. Their relationship begins innocently enough, with an email from Maggie, a fan letter, and James responds, thus launching an electronic pen-pal courtship. Quatro captures the nuances of the modern epistolary — the subject-line drama, the appropriate […]

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