Quade is a writer to watch.

NIGHT AT THE FIESTAS

STORIES

Debut collection of stories set in New Mexico from an award-winning writer.

Family ties—and family fissures—play a significant role in each piece. Catholic faith and practice are also prominent. In “The Five Wounds,” a perennially unemployed and generally defeated man prepares to play the role of Jesus in a Passion play while trying to deal with his pregnant teenage daughter. Although the symbolic resonances are heavy, Quade’s plainspoken style and mordant sense of humor save the story from bathos: “Thirty-three years old, the same as Our Lord, but Amadeo is not a man with ambition. Even his mother will tell you that.” Indeed, many of these stories illuminate a world in which religious belief gives shape to everyday reality. “Ordinary Sins”—previously published in The New Yorker—features another unwed, expectant mother negotiating a religious world in which women have no authority. Corpus Christi celebrations provide a climactic turning point in “Nemecia,” the strongest story in the collection and the one that gained entry into Best American Short Stories 2013. Quade offers readers a door into worlds that are likely unfamiliar, and she gives them the gift of letting them find their own ways. She doesn’t bother to describe, for example, the society of flagellants that has existed in New Mexico—just beneath the official notice of the church—for centuries, nor does she explain the different worldviews and doctrinal positions of an American priest and his more conservative African colleague. But while she grounds her stories in a specific cultural setting, Quade offers visions of family that have universal resonance. In “Mojave Rats,” a young mother is outsmarted and overwhelmed by her 7-year-old daughter, and her recognition of this fact does nothing to change it.

Quade is a writer to watch.

Pub Date: March 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24298-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS

Told through the points of view of the four Garcia sisters- Carla, Sandi, Yolanda and Sofia-this perceptive first novel by poet Alvarez tells of a wealthy family exiled from the Dominican Republic after a failed coup, and how the daughters come of age, weathering the cultural and class transitions from privileged Dominicans to New York Hispanic immigrants. Brought up under strict social mores, the move to the States provides the girls a welcome escape from the pampered, overbearingly protective society in which they were raised, although subjecting them to other types of discrimination. Each rises to the challenge in her own way, as do their parents, Mami (Laura) and Papi (Carlos). The novel unfolds back through time, a complete picture accruing gradually as a series of stories recounts various incidents, beginning with ``Antojos'' (roughly translated ``cravings''), about Yolanda's return to the island after an absence of five years. Against the advice of her relatives, who fear for the safety of a young woman traveling the countryside alone, Yolanda heads out in a borrowed car in pursuit of some guavas and returns with a renewed understanding of stringent class differences. ``The Kiss,'' one of Sofia's stories, tells how she, married against her father's wishes, tries to keep family ties open by visiting yearly on her father's birthday with her young son. And in ``Trespass,'' Carla finds herself the victim of ignorance and prejudice a year after the Garcias have arrived in America, culminating with a pervert trying to lure her into his car. In perhaps one of the most deft and magical stories, ``Still Lives,'' young Sandi has an extraordinary first art lesson and becomes the inspiration for a statue of the Virgin: ``Dona Charito took the lot of us native children in hand Saturday mornings nine to twelve to put Art into us like Jesus into the heathen.'' The tradition and safety of the Old World are just part of the tradeoff that comes with the freedom and choice in the New. Alvarez manages to bring to attention many of the issues-serious and light-that immigrant families face, portraying them with sensitivity and, at times, an enjoyable, mischievous sense.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-945575-57-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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