Maria is telling her story--she lived with a cousin who had witnessed a brutal attack and murder--many years later. It's a first-person POV story and the theme, for me, is about how trauma affects a young child as well as the rest of the family and the consequences of not being honest with the other children, Maria, especially.
The story is rich with detail, symbolism and metaphors. Nemecia eats lots of food without gaining weight; she's trying to fill a void. And, a wonderful statement of one of the themes, "Nemecia had an air of tragedy about her, which she cultivated." Nemecia tells Maria that she killed the grandfather and the mother but that the mother arose, "Then she came back, like Christ, except it was a bigger miracle because she was dead longer, not just three days." Children often blame themselves. Nemecia was only five years old when she witnessed the attack and murder.
When adults skirt an issue and tell children things need to be forgotten, children will make it a lot more horrible usually than the truth. Nemecia, at age five, obviously did not kill anyone. "It's best forgotten, hijita. I don't want to think about it." The story covers a lifetime, Maria as a baby to the time when she's nearly sixty years old. Her cousin, who several times throughout the story is mentioned as distant or vacant, moved to California, changed her name to Norma and was married. She collected "Dolls of the World" but didn't remember the broken and repaired doll that sat on their dresser for years as if she is trying to re-create herself and leave behind the broken child. Glass is mentioned several times. Angels and superstition figure prominently in the story.
"Nemecia" was first published in the online magazine, Narrative, then included in the 2013 issue of The Best American Short Stories.
link to Narrative Magazine page about Quade