cover image The Five Wounds

The Five Wounds

Kirstin Valdez Quade. Norton, $26.95 (428p) ISBN 978-0-3932-4283-6

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.)