Day of All Saints

Novella / 2017 / miami university press

Chosen by Brian Ascalon Roley for

the 2017 Miami University Novella Prize

Martín Silva de Choc, childhood survivor of an army massacre during the Guatemalan civil war, and now a language school teacher in Guatemala City, falls in love with Abby, his American student, and follows her home to Chicago on a fiancé visa. Days before their wedding, however, Abby goes missing, and on a Halloween afternoon Martín embarks on a search that will lead from the ghost-strewn yards of Chicago’s North Side to the Lincoln Park Conservatory—and back to his violent past. A story about repressed secrets and the limits of love, Day of All Saints traces the effects of historical trauma on individual lives.


Abby’s wedding dress still hangs in their bedroom closet. They’d bought the dress in the Zona 1 market, their last month together in Guate. She would wear it, said Abby, with her red platform shoes—red, with red rosettes on the toes. The same shoes she wore when Martín took her out salsa dancing, or to try out their half-assed merengue, in the days when they used to dance. Their first heady week in Chicago, she had tried on the outfit for him: the embroidered white cotton dress, vaguely Mayan, the red shoes resplendent beneath. Martín had breathed in and out. “Estás linda,” he said. Beautiful. Abby whirled across their lumpy linoleum floor. “The justice of the peace won’t know what hit him,” she said.

But she’s left the white dress behind. The first several nights of her disappearance, Martín found himself in the closet, lifting that dress from among other clothes: jeans she’d grown too thin to wear; the woolly gray sweater from their first class together in January, when Guatemala City mornings were cold.

Praise for Day of All Saints

Day of All Saints is a gripping and beautifully written tale of war and its aftermath that is, at once, profound and a page-turner. In this searing story, Patricia Grace King examines not only the human toll of Guatemala’s civil war, but also the costs of facing—and of failing to face—the ghosts that haunt us.

--Judith Claire Mitchell, author of A Reunion of Ghosts and The Last Day of the War

A haunted hero. His missing bride. Ghosts everywhere. In this elegantly-structured, suspenseful, and affecting novella, Patricia Grace King displays her great gifts as a writer: sharp prose, vivid setting across two cultures, and a profound empathy for the dispossessed, the forgotten, and the dreamers.

--Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men and All This Talk of Love

In Day of All Saints Patricia Grace King has crafted a heartbreaking, sensual tale, steeped in the rich details and characters of Guatemala, a part of the world rarely visited in North American writing. 

--Patricia Henley, author of Hummingbird House and In the River Sweet

Patricia Grace King’s debut novella, Day of All Saints, succeeds not only in brevity of form but is also so well written, so compassionate in portraying survival in such violent times, that it is hard to put down. So much can be said about the Guatemalan civil war and how it impacted both the public and private spheres, but King reminds us anew, with such lyricism, that the reader can withstand the brutality. She brings the story much closer to home—to Chicago—and much closer to love, as the protagonist, Martín, must overcome the trauma and guilt of survival. Love may not be successful for him, but it’s a beginning, and King asks us: If we can’t call that beginning a small act of redemption, then what in this world ever is?

--Helena María Viramontes, author of Their Dogs Came with Them and Under the Feet of Jesus

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