"It’s become cliché to say that a writer’s short stories have the weight of novels, but in Kirstin’s case it happens to be true. Her New Mexico is a crucible where individual desire is forged, lost, and reconstituted amid a backdrop of colliding histories and cultures. The result is as close to flesh and blood as black ink on white paper can come. She is a story writer of searing vision."
"Now that we’ve read [Quade’s] darkly funny investigations into relationships, we can agree: her talent is undeniable."
"Quade demonstrates her command of writing about complex issues of ethnicity and success head-on."
"Each of the ten stories offers a lyrical aria of its own, but together they create the music of generations, of families, and of a people."
"Her vision has thrived on…fierce, flesh-conscious desire for transcendence."
"[A] polished and potent collection…Rooted deeply in place and ringing with authentic voices, these gripping stories confront the hardest human questions of how to love, trust and forgive."
"[Lives] up to even the loftiest of expectations."
"A writer of extraordinary perception, a sharp-eyed truth-teller who renders her characters and the landscapes they inhabit with exquisite care. Each of these marvelous stories illuminates the messy, tender, unexplored borderland inside us all where our finest virtues bleed into our worst faults. A brilliant debut."
"Kirstin Valdez Quade is a fantastic writer, both stylish and sagacious. The stories here are taut and tense, while at the same time morally complicated, which is to say, they cut sharp and they cut deep.
Night at the Fiestas is a book of extraordinary virtuosity."
"Haunting and beautiful."
New York Times Book Review
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.
The New York Times Book Review - Kyle Minor
Whether told from the perspective of adults or kids,
Night at the Fiestas is most notable for conjuring the intensity and mythmaking of childhood and adolescence.
The New York Times - John Williams
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. In the title story, a restless girl named Frances, on the brink of adolescence, looks beyond her small world—her father is a bus driver taking revelers to an annual celebration, and her older cousin Nancy wants only to drink and flirt. The opening story, “Nemecia,” also involves an older female cousin, the title character, whom the narrator views with a complex mix of awe, jealousy, and fear. “The Guesthouse” brings a contentious family together on the occasion of a grandmother’s funeral. In “Ordinary Sins,” pregnant Crystal has tumultuous and layered relationships with a pair of priests. The final story, “The Manzanos,” which focuses on grief through the eyes and mind of a young girl, is an emotional tour de force. Agent: Denise Shannon, Denise Shannon Literary Agency. (Mar.)
"[Lives] up to even the loftiest of expectations."
Bustle (Spring Break Recommended Read)
"A debut collection filled with stories that read like classics (reminiscent of the work of Alice Munro or Flannery O'Connor), by a young author who writes with the patient, implacable wisdom of time."
"Sparkling…features dreamers and schemers whose lives pulsate with wild hopes, hard luck, stunning secrets, and saving grace."
"A stunning debut. With unflinching honesty and relentless compassion, Kirstin Valdez Quade conjures characters that are uncannily alive. Vibrant, incisive, and wickedly funny,
Night at the Fiestas announces the arrival of a fiercely original new voice."
"Fresh, funny…. A gifted storyteller with an eye for quirky, compelling detail…. A poised and polished debut."
Dallas Morning News - Jenny Shank
"Remarkable… In almost every story, Quade goes for vivid spectacle and theatrical plot twists… But Quade focuses just as intensely on the subtler customs, cruelties, kindnesses, and skewed alliances of precarious family life… 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."
The Atlantic - Ann Hulbert
Last fall, the National Book Foundation chose former Stegner fellow Quade as one of its Five Under 35 authors, and rightly so, as this first collection demonstrates. In language that's fluid, forthright, and emotionally bracing, she comes up with stories that surprise every time. All the stories are set in New Mexico and feature characters in doubt and in betrayal. In the title piece, a somewhat mousy teenage girl travels to town for the big fiesta (with her embarrassingly obsequious father as bus driver), exacting an uncertain revenge after a disturbing encounter with a stranger. In "Nemecia," the narrator recalls a high-handed older cousin favored by the family when she comes to live with them after a tragedy whose real nature emerges much later. In "The Guesthouse," a dutiful son's revelatory confrontation with his sister and estranged father after his maternal grandmother's death involves a vivid tableau with rats and a very large snake. "The Five Wounds" features loser Amadeo, who commits himself to reenacting the passion of Christ in a shockingly realistic penitential drama and experiences something other than the transfiguration he expected. VERDICT A piercingly perfect debut collection from a young writer who's already arrived; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/13/14.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Though not all of these 10 short stories are equal in their teen appeal, those that have it are clever and surprising. "Jubilee," for example, concerns two neighbor girls home from Stanford for the summer. Parker, the oldest, is the daughter of a ranch owner, while scholarship student Andrea's father is a worker on the ranch. Andrea has a chip on her shoulder about Parker's wealth that spills over in ugly, unexpected ways. In the title story, teenage Frances rides her father's bus to the downtown fiesta but gets in over her head when she flirts with a "painter." Each of the stories is set in a rural New Mexico—a setting not often represented in fiction. Most feature characters with unrelenting hubris being forced to examine their often prejudiced attitudes toward others. The role of religion is examined in three different stories. In "The Five Wounds," Amadeo is hoping to play the role of Jesus in this year's Good Friday celebration when his foul-mouthed, pregnant teenage daughter arrives on his doorstep. In "Family Reunion," Claire goes on vacation with her Mormon neighbors, but Mormonism isn't what she thought it might be. Finally, in "Ordinary Sins," a woman works at a rectory and gets drawn into a conflict between the beloved older priest and the strict newcomer. This work offers dark and often hopeless but thoughtful portrayals of working class New Mexicans from different perspectives. VERDICT Like many anthologies, pick and choose the stories to share/read/teach.—Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library
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.