A debut novelist interweaves a trio of voices-haunting, dangerous, full of longing--mysteriously linked by a shocking crime and the search to heal the past
Many long years have passed since the winter of blinding white when Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate drove across the hushed midwestern landscape and left a trail of blood and pain. So why does Lowell, a Manhattan collector of antiquities, still dream of what happened, despite his wife's best attempts to draw him back and offer comfort? And who is Susan, the teenager who appoints herself a detective, piecing together the story of the murders while wondering if she'll ever be loved like Starkweather loved his girl?
And then there's Caril Ann herself, who takes us back to relive the ride she swears she could not control. It began on the day Charlie first saw her, dangling her bare legs off the edge of a tree house. It ended outside Valentine, Nebraska, on that night when she still believed that life could somehow go back to being normal . . .
Every so often a novel comes along that is capable of redeeming the losses it so devastatingly conveys. Disturbing, bittersweet, and lyrical, Liza Ward's Outside Valentine is a story of people torn apart by tragedy and yet, finally, transformed by love.
Outside Valentine is an elegantly written and compelling book in its own right, but the story is given an extra edge by the fact that the author's paternal grandparents were two of the victims, and one of the fictionalized characters in the book is, apparently, based on the author's own father. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Elle Magazine (lead review)
Ward's feat lies less in her dynamic switching among the interconnected stories than in her astonishingly poetic yet palpable prose.
Starred Review. In this riveting literary suspense novel, first-timer Ward presents in lean, luminous prose a precarious world where true love can ravage as well as redeem, exploring a series of murders in Lincoln, Nebr., in the 1950s from the perspective of three narrators.
Starred Review. In her stunning first novel, Ward makes a great empathic leap, recasting painful personal history as compelling fiction.
Ward's first novel, a reconstruction (through three separate story lines) of Charlie Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate's 1958 murder spree across five states, inspired a bidding war involving five publishers.
Anita Shreve, author of The Pilots Wife and All She Ever Wanted
An intricate and challenging novel that examines the inner lives of men and women swept up in a devastating American crime. Ward's portraits are harrowing, heartfelt and unforgettable.
Kevin Canty, author of Honeymoon and other Stories and Into the Great Wide Open
A swift and beautifully written first novel about the lingering effects of violence and the power of love, to heal and to destroy. With extraordinary emotional accuracy, Liza Ward tracks the echoes of a murder across three generations and several lives, bringing them together in an ending both mysterious and musical. Outside Valentine seems to know all the secrets, and to be willing to tell them. Simply an amazing debut.
Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies and My Sky Blue Trades, a memoir
Liza Ward runs a tight, thrumming line through her narrative, punching up scenes with a sharp practiced touch and bringing wise compassion to bear on the tragic events that unfold with such dark inevitability.
Vendela Vida, author of And Now You Can Go
Written with confidence and grace, Outside Valentine tells an astounding story about how violence can propel us apart, yes, but how it can also bring us together in unexpected ways. Liza Ward has written an utterly gripping book.
J. Robert Lennon, author of On the Night Plain
Blunt, beautiful, and very scary, Outside Valentine proves that a murder doesn't end with death—it just goes on and on, staining generations, tolling across decades. It's a first novel with the weight of a tenth. Liza Ward has the ears of a wolf, the eyes of an owl, and a tongue as sharp as broken glass.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Diana Astounding! This is a story that reached out and touched my heart. I cried, laughed, was frightened, and felt love with this book. Ward really knew what she was writing. This book was exhilarating to the mind and to the soul. Reading this book was the best... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jenna Blum
I was the fiction editor at AGNI magazine when an excerpt from Liza Ward's OUTSIDE VALENTINE crossed my desk, and it raised the goosebumps on my arm that signify a true and unusual new talent. I told my senior editor that we had to snap up the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Albert Goldbarth
THis book has a tendency toward the not only melodramatic, but simplified understanding of lower class America that stems from obvious wealth. I think the author has obviously driven a hard point home about research: It doesn't always pay to know... Read More
is an elegantly written and compelling first
novel in its own right, but the story is
given an extra edge by the fact that the
author's paternal grandparents were two of
the victims, and one of the fictionalized
characters in the book is, apparently, based
on the author's father.
Starweather/Fugate killings were the
inspiration for a number of movies such as
Terrence Malick's Badlands (1974),
Quentin Tarantino and Tony Scott's True
Romance (1993), and Oliver Stone's
Natural Born Killers (1994). You can...
Told from Frank's perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him.
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