Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize
Finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Award
“[A] sparkling debut collection…features dreamers and schemers whose lives pulsate with wild hopes, hard luck, stunning secrets, and saving grace.” ―Elle
With intensity and emotional precision, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s unforgettable stories plunge us into the fierce, troubled hearts of characters defined by the desire to escape the past or else to plumb its depths. The deadbeat father of a pregnant teenager tries to transform his life by playing the role of Jesus in a bloody penitential Passion. A young man discovers that his estranged father and a boa constrictor have been squatting in his grandmother’s empty house. A lonely retiree new to Santa Fe becomes obsessed with her housekeeper. One girl attempts to uncover the mystery of her cousin’s violent past, while another young woman finds herself at an impasse when she is asked to hear her priest’s confession.
Always hopeful, these stories chart the passions and obligations of family life, exploring themes of race, class, and coming-of-age, as Quade’s characters protect, betray, wound, undermine, bolster, define, and, ultimately, save each other.
“Legitimate masterpieces…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?” –New York Times (full review)
“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.” — Ann Hulbert, The Atlantic
“Fresh, funny…. A gifted storyteller with an eye for quirky, compelling detail…. A poised and polished debut.” —Jenny Shank, Dallas Morning News
“[Lives] up to even the loftiest of expectations.” ― Bustle (Spring Break Recommended Read)
“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. . . . A book of extraordinary virtuosity.” — Justin Torres
“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.” — Jennifer duBois
“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.” —Maggie Shipstead