Title: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Genre: Historical (70s), Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
Written with the haunting emotional power of Elizabeth Strout and Barbara Kingsolver, an astonishing debut novel that explores the lingering effects of a brutal crime on the women of one small Texas oil town in the 1970s.
Mercy is hard in a place like this . . .
It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.
In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field—an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.
Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the reader’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.
Set in Odessa, TX, Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore is an interesting novel which takes place in the mid 1970s.
Beginning with the vicious sexual and physical assault on fourteen year old Gloria Ramirez by oil worker Dale Strickland, the story unfolds through a series of vignettes by five different women. Gloria’s life quickly intersects with ranch wife Mary Rose Whitehead who provides refuge to the young woman. Mary Rose is pregnant with her second child at the time and she is willing to do whatever it takes for justice for Gloria. But she is unable to cope with the isolated setting and she moves to town where she becomes neighbors with widow Corrine Shepard. Corrine is struggling following the death of her husband. The narrative paints a somewhat grim portrait of life in the oil boomtown as it wanders to other women and a young girl in the neighborhood. The story also highlights the dearth of women’s rights during the time period and the rampant xenophobia against Mexicans.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore is well-written but the story is slow-paced, a little disjointed and meandering. The characters are relatively well-developed but some are more likable than others. Mary Rose and Gloria are multi-dimensional and easy to empathize with as they deal with the aftermath of the attack. The issues the various characters are dealing with are well-articulated and true to the time period. The resolution of Gloria’s case against Dale is realistic and sets the stage for the novel’s somewhat dramatic conclusion.