This debut collection explores the ripple effect of one transformative moment on six lives, witnessed at a different point in each girl's future. The stories explore the inner worlds of girls and women, the relationships we cherish and betray, and the transformations we undergo in the simple act of living.
...captivating stories ... My one concern centers on the final piece, 'In the Hollow,' where the allegory of Lilith and the tree seems a bit far-fetched. On the other hand, Tell Me Who We Were is such an insightful, compassionate book—a truly wonderful collection—that readers may cherish the last story as much as the first seven.
... an art form in its own right, combining ancient cultural prototypes with modern settings written poetically ... [McQuade's] prose is symbolic and, at times, mysterious. She uses language in novel ways ... not a story to rush. It’s not chick lit. It’s not a beach read. Not a whodunit. Not necessarily a book that’s easy to understand the first time through ... This is a slim volume to ponder, full of writing to savor, to glean meaning from. It is the evocation of universal memory, imagination, and emotion — prose that is at once lyrical and deep, telling stories in a language and style that is uniquely McQuade’s.
McQuade uses natural imagery (especially birds and trees) and an infusion of strangeness and wonder that verges on the supernatural to connect these stories, which are also linked thematically. Piecing together these connections demands close reading—and rewards it, with details to savor. Short-story fans should be on the lookout for McQuade, whose style nestles somewhere between Elizabeth Strout’s and Helen Oyeyemi’s.