National Book Critics Circle Award winner Quade’s penetrating debut novel (expanded from a story in Night at the Fiestas) tells of a man’s quest for self-acceptance through the metaphor of the five wounds Jesus suffered during crucifixion. In the blighted New Mexico village of Las Penas, Amadeo Padilla, a heavily tattooed, ambitionless, unemployed alcoholic, has been tapped to play Jesus in the yearly reenactment of the Passion play orchestrated by the “hermandad,” or the Hermanos Penitentes, a secretive order of devoted, self-flagellating Catholics. Amadeo, along with his pregnant teenage daughter Angel (who shows up unannounced during “Passion Week”) and his silently suffering mother, Yolanda, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma, complicate Amadeo’s path to redemption. Tragedy abounds when Angel is expelled from her hybrid GED-parenting program, Amadeo’s alcoholism causes a life-threatening accident, and Yolanda’s cancer worsens. Eventually, Amadeo realizes that immediate redemption is overrated, but his devotion to thoughts of Jesus’s suffering may just yield hard-fought transcendence. The well-developed characters convey palpable emotion as Amadeo’s failures as a father, partner, entrepreneur, and even as Jesus translate into fits of rage and frustration. Quade’s rendering of a singular community is pitch perfect. (Apr.)
"A masterful novel of family, faith, doubt. Quade's storytelling gift is her ability to capture the mysterious pulse of belief and ground them in visceral ritual on the page."
"A gorgeously written, Franzen-caliber tale of one Latinx family's via dolorosa."
"You hold in your hands a small, complete universe vibrating with joy and grief, humor and absurdity and delight. All the fabulous mess of humanity is, somehow, in these pages. The Five Wounds is bighearted, tender, wise, and shot through with moments of pure grace."
"An unputdownable novel, The Five Wounds takes my breath away with its intimate, humorous, and heart-aching portrayal of a New Mexican family. Kirstin Valdez Quade can make a reader laugh and break a reader’s heart in the same breath, and she leaves us, by the end of the novel, in awe of the dazzling power of her storytelling."
"With deep empathy, fierce intelligence, and subtle wit, Kirstin Valdez Quade has crafted an indelible portrait of a family living in precarity. The characters in The Five Wounds are so vivid, their grasping efforts toward love and redemption so finely wrought, and each page full of such immaculate prose, that I read this novel with ever-increasing breathless urgency."
"Kirstin Valdez Quade writes with exquisite precision about the fragility and resilience of the Padilla family…I loved The Five Wounds, which reminded me that growing pains are not confined to adolescence and that people can be newborn at any age. Even its most excruciating moments are charged with a luminous compassion."
"In this cruel and divisive era, Kirstin Valdez Quade has brought healing and regeneration with The Five Wounds. It is bracing and wise, and it breaks us in the best ways. Then builds us back up again. It should find many grateful readers."
"The Five Wounds is brilliant! The story is bountiful and so incredibly well crafteda beautiful braid of the life cycle within a family. It captures both the strength and fragility of relationships and existence and the resilience and great power of love and belief. It is a novel about faith in the largest sense of the word. Each page is packed with detail and the most beautiful languageand images and characters that will remain part of our lives."
"I don’t remember ever reading a novel as vibrant and warm as The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade. Just a few pages in, I felt like I intimately knew the characters and cared about them as if they were family members. It’s both heartbreaking and a joy to read!"
"The characters in this engrossing novel are created in luminous and memorable detail. Just as the pacing is perfect, so too are the tact and care with which each scene is made. Kirstin Valdez Quade, by concentrating on the truth of small moments, has brought a whole world into focus."
DEBUT NOVEL Quade follows up her John Leonard Prize-winning debut collection, Night of the Fiestas, by expanding on perhaps its best story. In Las Penas, NM, 33-year-old hard-drinking, going-nowhere Amadeo unexpectedly plays the part of Jesus in the town's surprisingly realistic portrayal of the Passion of Christ during Holy Week. Just as unexpectedly, his pregnant, near-16-year-old daughter Angel, fed up with her own mother, drops in to live with him and his mother, Yolanda. What results is a profoundly affecting story that smoothly expands to include the lives of family, friends, and the entire community of hardscrabble Las Penas. Yolanda, who has tended to her whole troubled family, now has issues of her own, while her smug, crusading daughter Valerie, with two interestingly contrary daughters of her own, makes trouble for Amadeo and Angel. Owing to her pregnancy, Angel attends special classes, where she develops complex relationships with sexually charged student Lizette and the emotionally imprisoned and ultimately obstructionist teacher, Brianna. The baby's arrival brings joy and a moment of supreme, heartrending panic as the narrative reaches its graceful conclusion. VERDICT Expertly crafted, this story of family and community introduces us to often needy characters for whom readers come to care deeply. Highly recommended.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
As members of the Padilla family navigate their way through the harsh realities of life in northern New Mexico over the course of a year, they discover the depths of their faith in each other and in themselves.
The Padillas are an old family from the fading village of Las Penas, but now they've dwindled to four people: the matriarch, Yolanda; her two adult children, Amadeo and Valerie; and her elderly Tío Tíve, head of the village’s morada, an informal religious meeting house, where he has chosen Amadeo for the role of Jesus in the upcoming Good Friday procession. Amadeo, unemployed and alcoholic, still lives with his mother. As the book opens, Yolanda is on vacation in Las Vegas; Amadeo's estranged teenage daughter, Angel, shows up on his doorstep, pregnant, after having had a fight with her mother, and Amadeo reluctantly takes her in. Angel, who is in a school for teenage mothers, idolizes her teacher, Brianna, a young woman from Oregon. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Yolanda goes to the emergency room and receives a devastating diagnosis, sending her back home to her children and grandchildren, determined to find a way to fix the crumbling foundations of their relationships. However, the birth of Angel’s son and Amadeo’s lifelong habit of financial and emotional dependence on his mother blind them to Yolanda’s rapidly declining health. When Brianna instigates a secret sexual relationship with Amadeo, they are each guilty of being selfish and careless with Angel’s life, but it is Brianna who causes a series of reverberating consequences for Angel and the other girls in the program while she walks away unscathed. With beautifully layered relationships and an honest yet profoundly empathetic picture of a rural community—where the families proudly trace their roots back to the Spanish conquistadors while struggling with poverty and a deadly drug epidemic—this novel is a brilliant meditation on love and redemption.
Perfectly rendered characters anchor a novel built around a fierce, flawed, and loving family.