Valentine: Book summary and reviews of Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine

by Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore X
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
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Book Summary

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, one of the town's women decides to take matters into her own hands, setting the stage 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, darkly funny, 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Wetmore poetically weaves the landscape of Odessa and the internal lives of her characters, whose presence remains vivid after the last page is turned. This moving portrait of West Texas oil country evokes the work of Larry McMurtry and John Sayles with strong, memorable female voices." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Drawing comparisons to Barbara Kingsolver and Wallace Stegner, Wetmore writes with an evidently innate wisdom about the human spirit. With deep introspection, she expertly unravels the complexities between men, women, and the land they inhabit. Achingly powerful, this story will resonate with readers long after having finished it." - Booklist

"Fierce and complex, Valentine is a novel of moral urgency and breathtaking prose. This is the very definition of a stunning debut." - Ann Patchett

"It is nearly impossible for me to believe that Elizabeth Wetmore is a first-time novelist. How can a writer burst out of the gate with this much firepower and skill? Valentine is brilliant, sharp, tightly wound, and devastating. Wetmore has ripped the brutal, epic landscape of West Texas out of the hands of men, and has handed the stories over (finally!) to the girls and women who have always suffered, survived, and made their mark in such a hostile world. These are some of the most fully realized and unforgettable female characters I've ever met. They will stay with me." - Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of City of Girls

"My goodness, what a novel. I clutched this book in both hands and by the end I could feel the dust of West Texas on my skin. Elizabeth Wetmore understands the nuances of the human heart better than almost any writer I've read in recent years, and I rooted for these women with everything I have. There is violence here, and despair, but in the end the story is a testament to quiet courage, to hope, to love. Every person should read this extraordinary debut." - Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes

"Valentine is a screaming flare shot into the night sky: a blazing debut that's as tender and subversive as it is powerful. From the opening moment, I could not look away; the characters are so complex, so gritty and determined, that I had the sense they were carrying me aloft, that they wouldn't release me until we were safe. Elizabeth Wetmore captures a place and story that's both expansive and suffocating, counterfeit and raw, brutal and beautiful, all the vivid contradictions. Wetmore is a new literary powerhouse, and Valentine is quite simply one of the best books I've ever read." - Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt

This information about Valentine was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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BuffaloGirlKS

Best Book in a Long, Long Time
This is the best book I have read in a long, long time. The author's descriptions of the West Texas landscape, weather, and 1970s culture are so vivid I could feel the sun bearing down and the grit blowing on my face. Told in alternating voices, one comes to learn each woman's and girl's story and how they support each other and others in need. The depiction of the suppression of women, minorities, and the marginalized in a society controlled by white men is so accurate to that time. The characters are perfect in every way, the progression on the story is perfect, the ending is perfect. This book is flawless.

Sherry K

not your average West Texas cowboy novel
I loved this book from the moment I read the first page. I couldn't put it down. The setting is in oil country, Texas, in the 1970s.The boom is over now but oilmen are expecting another one on its way. This is a story mostly of the women and girls living during this time and place enduring sadness and hardships they are ill-equipped for. This is the working class, housewives, ranchers' wives...there is no glamour here but there is compassion and empathy for each other. This novel is a beautifully written graphic tale which will hold you captive until the last page...literally!

Sandi W.

Seven narrators sounds like a lot...but...
Originally I wanted to give this book 4 stars - I did really enjoy most of it. However this author wrote without quotation marks. WHY??!?! In my opinion, a terrible mistake for an author, especially for a new author. Usually I would have just quit the book and given it away, but due to the insistence of a friend, I read the book. As I said, quotation marks aside, I enjoyed most of it. I thought the ending was rather bizarre and could have been much better, but the overall story kept my attention and I thought was well put together.

There were 7 authors in this book. Each a female - ranging in age from a young child to an older grandmotherly woman. They were all in Odessa Texas, during the beginning of the oil boom. Each person was somehow related to another. And through their narrative we hear the story of Glory, a young 14 year old girl raped by a senseless drunk, 20 some years old, out to get his own enjoyment.

We go through the morning after the rape, right up through, what that town called a 'trial', and the outcome of punishment for the young rapist. The fears, the sacrifices, and the other obligations and challenges of the narrators advance us through the book.

This was a good format that the author did very well. Seven narrators sounds like a lot and that you would get confused, but that does not happen. You read on just to see how these females related to and were intertwined with each other and what their association to Glory was. With a less confusing and more solid ending this book would have been much better.

Now knowing that Wetmore writes without quotation marks, I will thoroughly investigate her next book before picking it up to read - regardless of recommendations.

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Author Information

Elizabeth Wetmore

Elizabeth Wetmore is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Epoch, Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, Baltimore Review, Crab Orchard Review, Iowa Review, and other literary journals. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and two fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, as well as a grant from the Barbara Deming Foundation. She was also a Rona Jaffe Scholar in Fiction at Bread Loaf and a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, and one of six Writers in Residence at Hedgebrook. A native of West Texas, she lives and works in Chicago.

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