Kirstin Valdez Quade’s theatrical new short-story collection
In almost every story, Quade goes for vivid spectacle and theatrical plot twists. They often involve the “miracle-laden, medieval Hispanic Catholicism” she has said she grew up with in northern New Mexico, where much of her fiction is set. In “The Five Wounds,” a ne’er-do-well named Amadeo is chosen to play Jesus in a drawn-out Lenten enactment of the Passion. He struggles to purify himself through the ordeal, in which real nails play a gruesome role. But Quade focuses just as intensely on the subtler customs, cruelties, kindnesses, and skewed alliances of precarious family life. A visit from Amadeo’s pregnant teenage daughter—long estranged—occasions his most acute revelation. If Quade ever yearned to escape her archaic Catholic heritage and redefine herself, let’s be glad she didn’t. Her vision has thrived on its fierce, flesh-conscious desire for transcendence.
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