“The Five Wounds” [is] one of three legitimate masterpieces in Kirstin Valdez Quade’s haunting and beautiful debut story collection, “Night at the Fiestas”…It is common practice, near the bottom of a review like this one, to say the undercutting thing the reviewer is too polite to say in the first paragraph. But there is nothing undercutting to say about this book, which caused me to weep so many times I failed to finish most of its stories in a single sitting. The collection reminds us, again and again, that each of us has only one life, and forces us to confront the biggest questions: Shouldn’t that one life matter, shouldn’t that life be worth remembering, shouldn’t it be worth examining, contemplating, pursuing in understanding, even though all varieties of understanding are so difficult, so time-bound, so provisional?… This is a variety of beauty too rare in contemporary literature, a synthesis of material and practice and time and courage and love that must have cost its writer dearly; it’s not easy to be so vulnerable so consistently. Quade attempts, page by page, to give up carefully held secrets, to hold them up to the light so we can get at the truth beneath, the existential truth. Perhaps this is as close as we can get to what is sacred in an age in which so many have otherwise rejected the idea of the sacred.
—Kyle Minor, The New York Times Book Review. Read the whole review here.
“Frances was pretending to be someone else”: the opening line of the title story in this remarkable debut collection tells us just what we need to know about a bookish 16-year-old eager to let loose at the Fiestas celebrations in Santa Fe—and about Kirstin Valdez Quade’s fictional enterprise. Character after character in her 10 stories is inspired, terrified, cleansed, confused, and often disappointed by an urge for transformation… 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.
—Ann Hulbert, The Atlantic. Read it here.
All the characters in Quade’s auspicious debut collection of 10 stories live in New Mexico, but it’s a tribute to her artistry that each story feels vivid and new. Quade’s ability to depict an entire world within the limitations of a single story, and to produce a collection with both unity and breadth, is reminiscent of Alice Munro…The final story, “The Manzanos,” which focuses on grief through the eyes and mind of a young girl, is an emotional tour de force.
—Publisher’s Weekly. Read the whole thing here.
In this stunning debut story collection, Quade pits estranged children against struggling parents, forges scenes of disconcerting domesticity, and works a kind of magic with her prose.
Kirstin Valdez Quade’s remarkable debut story collection Night at the Fiestas, set mainly in tight-knit Catholic, Mexican-American communities in New Mexico, enthralls with tales of people striving to better their lives while enduring the aftermath of past mistakes…In Quade’s skilled hands, the familiar Catholic tropes of penitence, grace and redemption, which could so easily become heavy-handed, feel fresh, funny and loose…No one gets off easy in Quade’s fiction. All her characters grapple with moral questions that circumstances force them to face head on rather than brush off or ignore. Quade is a gifted storyteller with an eye for quirky, compelling detail, and her first story collection is a poised and polished debut.
—The Dallas Morning News. Read it here.
I’ve been anticipating Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut work since the 2009 publication of “The Five Wounds” in The New Yorker. And it’s finally here. Night at the Fiestas, a short-story collection, chronicles the lives of New Mexico’s wayward souls—a desolate retiree; a distant father; a dispirited priest—as each seeks out a personal deliverance. Quade renders her characters with the fullness of humanity: men and women, though sometimes derailed, full of love, longing, and light.
—Gawker. Read the full article here.
Debut collection of stories set in New Mexico from an award-winning writer. But while she grounds her stories in a specific cultural setting, Quade offers visions of family that have universal resonance. Quade is a writer to watch.
—Kirkus. Read the full review here.
In 2014, debut author Kirstin Valdez Quade was awarded a spot on the National Book Foundation’s coveted “5 Under 35” list, an accolade reserved for those emerging writers who challenge, innovate, and energize the writing world. But Night at the Fiestas, Quade’s highly accomplished short story collection, suggests that, though undoubtedly original, Quade is essentially a traditionalist. Each of these New Mexico-set stories are complex and exacting, admirably controlled but brimming with pathos; and each hearkens to masters of the form, from Flannery O’Connor’s suspended Gothicism to Annie Proulx’s devout dedication to evoking a sense of place. And it’s New Mexico, that heat-ridden corner of our country, that breaks out as the star of the collection: you’ll be haunted by Quade’s shimmering images of burning zozobras and hot red sands long after you finish the last story.