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Tell Me Who We Were: Stories (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

McQuade’s connected stories, centering around the lives of girls who once attended boarding school together, kept me intrigued and curious. As each story started, I made a game of guessing which girl was the focus and who the narrator might be. We see them as women, girls, teens, elderly, mothers, daughters, friends, lovers, and wives. The incident with their teacher is a point of connection and here are the spokes spinning out from the hub. Nothing in nature is permanent, neither are books. These images are ethereal, try and wrap your arms around them and they billow like smoke. The glimpses are haunting and gauzy, and some are based in myths and fairytales. In these pages you will stumble across crows, trees, taxidermy, secrets, lies, and the freedom of summer. Reading one is like letting the peach juice run down your chin.

— From Beth's Picks


"These are stories of magical lyricism, contemporary in their exploration of the obsessions of girls and young women, mythic in their scope and mystery. Remarkable." -- Joyce Carol Oates

Lyrical, intimate, and incisive, Tell Me Who We Were explores the inner worlds of girls and women, the relationships we cherish and betray, and the transformations we undergo in the simple act of living.

It begins with a drowning. One day Mr. Arcilla, the romance language teacher at Briarfield, an all-girls boarding school, is found dead at the bottom of Reed Pond. Young and handsome, the object of much fantasy and fascination, he was adored by his students. For Lilith and Romy, Evie and Claire, Nellie and Grace, he was their first love, and their first true loss.

In this extraordinary collection, Kate McQuade explores the ripple effect of one transformative moment on six lives, witnessed at a different point in each girl’s future. Throughout these stories, these bright, imaginative, and ambitious girls mature into women, lose touch and call in favors, achieve success and endure betrayal, marry and divorce, have children and struggle with infertility, abandon husbands and remain loyal to the end.  

About the Author

Kate McQuade is the author of the novel Two Harbors. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Harvard Review, Shenandoah, and Verse Daily, and her nonfiction has appeared in The Lily for Washington Post, LitHub, and TIME Magazine. She is the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from the MacDowell Colony, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Women’s International Study Center, and Yaddo. Born and raised in Minnesota, she teaches at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where she lives on campus with her family.

Praise For…

“These are stories of magical lyricism, contemporary in their exploration of the obsessions of girls and young women, mythic in their scope and mystery….Remarkable. The work of an exceptional writer.” — Joyce Carol Oates

“Arresting...McQuade writes with perceptive elegance.” — Boston Globe

“Insightful, compassionate... a truly wonderful collection.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The stories in Tell Me Who We Were are united by ferociously complicated women wrestling with pain and desire in a vividly unsettled world. Kate McQuade is a spectacular writer, equal parts sensitive and fearless, and Tell Me Who We Were is abundant with heartbreak and wonder.”  — Laura Van Den Berg, author of Find Me

“A lush dark fairy tale forest of a book—full of shadowy life, magical upendings, and all the longings and betrayals of the body. So deeply felt and evocative that we live these stories inside the characters’ skins. A moving, richly textured exploration of what it means to be haunted.” — Clare Beams, author of We Show What We Have Learned

“I adored this remarkable, wonderful book of linked stories, held together by a mysterious death. The stories capture the longing of girlhood, the strangeness of motherhood, the pain and hopefulness felt in a marriage. Kate McQuade writes with beauty, grace, and an electric touch of magic.” — Annie Hartnett, author of Rabbit Cake

“Kate McQuade is one of the most exciting writers I’ve read in years. I could read – and learn from – her prose all day and still want more, and the haunting, crackling-with-life world of this linked collection will long stay with me.” — Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down

“Kate McQuade’s Tell Me Who We Were is the most refreshing work of contemporary literature I’ve read in years....The roots of this book are in ancient literature, but its spirit is stirringly Twenty-first Century.  A virtuoso performance!”   — David Huddle, author of The Story of a Million Years and The Faulkes Chronicles

“Elegant, intimate...a revelatory glimpse into the dark magic of girlhood, the intense pulsations of young adulthood, and the fraught sensuality of womanhood. This is an artfully constructed, soulfully rendered collection whose characters, images, and questions will resonate long after you turn the last page.” — Keija Parssinen, author of The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062869791
ISBN-10: 0062869795
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2019
Pages: 208
Language: English

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