The Five Wounds

Kirstin Valdez Quade

The Five Wounds
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The Five Wounds

Kirstin Valdez Quade

It’s Holy Week in the town of Las Penas, New Mexico, and thirty-three-year-old unemployed Amadeo Padilla is to play Jesus in the Good Friday procession. He is preparing feverishly for this role when his fifteen-year-old daughter Angel shows up pregnant on his doorstep.


Vivid, darkly funny, and beautifully rendered, The Five Wounds spans the baby’s first year as five generations of the Padilla family converge: Amadeo’s mother, Yolanda, reeling from a recent discovery; Angel’s mother, whom Angel isn’t speaking to; and Tio Tive, keeper of the family’s history. In the absorbing, realist tradition of Elizabeth Strout and Jonathan Franzen, Kirstin Valdez Quade brings to life the struggles of her characters to parent children they may not be equipped to save.

July 2021 Book of the Month for Roxane Gay’s Book Club 

Review

Thirty-three-year-old Amadeo Padilla is unemployed, alcoholic and still living with his mother, Yolanda. One day, while Yolanda is away holidaying in Las Vegas, Amadeo comes home to find his pregnant 15-year-old daughter, Angel, sitting on the doorstep. Having failed to keep in contact with Angel throughout the years, Amadeo is horrified by her presence and just stops short of telling her to go back to her mother. Angel tells Amadeo that she’s had a fight with her mother, and has nowhere else to go, and though she is disappointed by her grandmother’s absence, she quickly makes herself at home. Yolanda returns from Las Vegas, carrying a secret that could devastate the family, but she returns to work, and says nothing. When Angel has her son, Connor, Yolanda is delighted.

Most multi-generational novels cover decades or even centuries, but Kirstin Valdez Quade has managed to capture the trials and triumphs of the Padilla family in just one year, giving this absorbing debut novel pace and immediacy. The Five Wounds examines the complex history that binds family and friends together in this rural New Mexican town. Angel is opposite in every way to her father. She’s committed to improving her life, and attends a program called ‘Smart Starts’ – an educational and social support program for teenage mothers. Angel idolises her teacher, 25-year-old Brianna, whose actions and decisions affect the Padilla family. The story is also a study in redemption: numerous times Amadeo pledges that he will do more with his life, give up drinking and support his family. His great-uncle, Tío Tíve, even gives him a chance to prove himself by playing the role of Jesus in the town’s annual Holy Week re-enactment.

Despite the big issues it tackles, this novel also has very funny moments. It’s a great story to hunker down with in winter, and book club discussions will run overtime dissecting these wonderful characters.


Annie Condon is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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