"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.
McQuade's masterful debut, a collection of linked stories, centers on six adolescents: Romy, Evie, Claire, Nell, Grace, and Lillith, who, in the opening story, bond over a tragedy during their first year at an all-girls boarding school. The seven intricate stories that follow delve into who these girls become at different points in their lives, or showcase an aspect of their identity through the eyes of someone close to them. In "A Myth of Satellites," a new father looks back with regret on his teen-aged summer crush on Romy. "Wedge of Swans" reveals 29-year-old Evie's ambivalence about having a child after having a miscarriage. The bizarre emotional and physical journey the newly separated Claire takes with her French-speaking, one-year-old baby is outlined in "Helen in Texarkana." In the fantastical final story, "In The Hollow," Lillith's widower husband is convinced his wife has returned to him as a tree in their backyard. The author plumbs the depths of each character's soul how in the trajectory of growing older these women can or cannot connect with others as they deal with loss, infertility, or heartbreak. This exceptional debut reveals the extraordinary and mysterious underpinnings of ordinary lives whose presence long linger after the reader turns the final page.