The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade review – a family with crosses to bear

This immersive novel, expanded from a story in the New Yorker, follows a New Mexico household facing challenges and chances of redemption

The Five Wounds began life in 2009, as a story in the New Yorker. In the run-up to Easter, in a village in New Mexico, Amadeo – a 33-year-old unemployed, deadbeat alcoholic who lives with his mother – is preparing to be Jesus in a ritual re-enactment of the crucifixion. He carries the cross and then has his hands nailed to it in front of the watching crowd, which includes his 15-year-old daughter, Angel, who is eight months pregnant.

Quade was asked by her editor if she’d considered turning the story into a novel; she thought it was finished, yet found herself repeatedly coming back to the same family dynamics. And so The Five Wounds returns as a fully formed novel about three generations striving for the redemption that Amadeo aims for and misses in spectacular fashion on the cross. Quade picks up her story with Angel’s frustrated reaction to her father’s display: what she really needs is a dad who can actually help her, not perform empty gestures. How will he hold the baby with holes in his hands?

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