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 they have known it.
Fire Sermon – a discourse delivered by Buddha in which he describes that you need to burn to achieve liberation from suffering. Only if you detach yourself from your senses through the burning process can you reach a higher level of existence. The burning can occur through passion, aversion, delusion and suffering. Meggie, Jamie Quarto’s protagonist in whose head we find ourselves as the reader, goes through all four of them.
She feels passion, after so many years married not anymore for her husband, but for the poet with whom she feels connected immediately. Aversion is what she experiences in bed, aversion towards her husband, whom she loves but not in those moments when he is selfish and she either complies with his wishes to find peace or opposes him and risks a fight. Delusion – she is thinking of what her life could be, how it could have been and what she might get if she gives up her family. Last, suffering. She suffers a lot, from remorse and guilt, but also physically and emotionally. At times she goes through hell.
Jamie Quarto does not narrate a love story, but a story about love. Different kinds of love. Love full of passion, love full of emotion, love that goes deep, love that is stronger than anything else. And love that hurts. There are different layers of love, different types which are experienced with different people. And looming around the corner is always the question: does love require faithfulness and singularity? Or can you love different people in different ways at the same time? And how can this be reconciled with the Christian idea of marriage? The author does not provide you with answers, just with the example of one woman and how she finds answers to those questions.
I really liked the novel even though at times I found it hard to endure. But it is so easy to sympathise and identify with Meggie and her worries that you can easily immerge into it.