Valentine
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club PickWritten 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.

Valentine Details

TitleValentine
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 31st, 2020
PublisherHarper
ISBN-139780062913265
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Valentine Review

  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    An astonishingly unforgettable debut from the talented Elizabeth Wetmore, historical fiction set in the searing heat and dust of West Texas, in the cursed bust and boom oil town of Odessa in 1976, a white man's town in every which way, where men die in a variety of circumstances but if a woman dies, its more likely than not to be at the hands of a man. For women, narrow limits and prescribed perameters of life have them desperately dreaming of seeing a wider world, where pregnancy and motherhood An astonishingly unforgettable debut from the talented Elizabeth Wetmore, historical fiction set in the searing heat and dust of West Texas, in the cursed bust and boom oil town of Odessa in 1976, a white man's town in every which way, where men die in a variety of circumstances but if a woman dies, its more likely than not to be at the hands of a man. For women, narrow limits and prescribed perameters of life have them desperately dreaming of seeing a wider world, where pregnancy and motherhood are steel traps with a vice like grip that crush spirits, dreams, hopes and imprisons, a life sentence with no parole. Odessa is a town, a community full of fools and sinners, that is as guilty as sin, with its vicious, unapologetic racism running rampant through its veins, where women and girls are abused, condemned and murdered with impunity, and justice is a forlorn unattainable ideal. Wetmore examines Odessa and the social norms and attitudes of the period through the lives of women and girls, such as the married and pregnant Mary Rose Whitehead, the elderly, stubborn, grumpy and bereaved Corinne Shepherd, mourning the loss of her beloved husband, Potter, 17 year old Karla Sibley working as a waitress, the plucky 10 year old Debra Ann, missing her mother, Ginny, who loves her daughter, but needs more as she escapes the town, and 14 year old Mexican Gloria. Mary Rose's courage shines like a beacon when she stands up for the barely alive, battered and raped Gloria when the girl turns up at her ranch. Her husband, Robert, like the other menfolk, consider her beyond the pale, and a race traitor for her willingness to testify against the paedophile and rapist Dale Strickland, the son of a preacher man. After all, Gloria, who becomes Glory, is Mexican, asking for it, and anyway Mexican girls are not the same as white girls. Mary Rose dares to dream of justice for Gloria, but Corinne has no such illusions.Wetmore relates an Odessa where the women, despite everything that stands in their path, support and help each other, such as the indomitable Corinne coming to the aid of Mary Rose as her unbridled wrath and rage at injustice push her close to the edges of insanity, Suzanne Ledbetter with her voluntary provisions to those in need, and the women supporting Karla, determining an alternative justice. Debra Ann's compassion, kindness, and relationship with the drain pipe living ex-soldier, Jesse Belden, allow the two of them to meet each others need to be cared for when they are neglected by everyone else. Victor, Gloria's uncle, looks after her when her mother is deported, illustrating his wisdom in understanding that nothing causes more suffering than vengeance. This is a stellar character driven read that details the lives and circumstances of this place and this time, a novel with an ironic title of Valentine, the only true Valentines in the novel are Corinne and Potter, and Potter is dead. Wetmore is unafraid of venturing into sacrilegious territory where her characters can feel the all too real chains and boredom of motherhood, where you can love someone with all your heart and still wish they weren't there. This is a hugely memorable and terrific read, and I just cannot wait for whatever Wetmore turns her attention to next and writes. Highly recommended. Many thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.
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  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    Hey there, Valentine. His soft drawl marked him as not from here, but not that far away either, and his words took the ugly right out of the parking lot. Her mouth went dry as a stick of chalk. She had been standing next to the lone picnic table parked in the center of the drive-in, a shaky wooden hub in the middle of a few cars and trucks, doing what she always did on a Friday nighthanging around, drinking limeades and begging smokes, waiting for something to happen, which it never did, not in Hey there, Valentine. His soft drawl marked him as not from here, but not that far away either, and his words took the ugly right out of the parking lot. Her mouth went dry as a stick of chalk. She had been standing next to the lone picnic table parked in the center of the drive-in, a shaky wooden hub in the middle of a few cars and trucks, doing what she always did on a Friday night—hanging around, drinking limeades and begging smokes, waiting for something to happen, which it never did, not in this piss-ant town. Not until tonight.The next morning, February 15, 1976, Gloria Ramirez wakes to find herself out in an oil patch, on the ground, the handsome young roughneck passed out in his pickup. Miles from home, she gathers articles of her scattered clothing, puts some of them on, and heads off in search of the nearest house, praying that he does not wake up before she can find her way to safety. Gloria has been raped and beaten to within an inch of her life. She walks across miles of rough country on bare, bloody feet, finding a house minutes before Dale Strickland, having come to, and realizing the need to cover his tracks, kicking up clouds of road dust in pursuit, arrives at that house and demands that Gloria be turned over to him. Thankfully, Mary Rose, very pregnant with her second, but in possession of a rifle named Old Lady, that she has had since she was a teen, fends off the increasingly threatening Mister Strickland until the sheriff she had had her daughter, Aimee, call, arrives to keep things from getting any worse. Gloria will survive this day, a different person from who she was the day before. She is fourteen years old.Elizabeth Wetmore - image from Baltimore ReviewGloria’s rape and the ensuing trial is where we begin in Elizabeth Wetmore’s lyrical, moving tapestry of a time and a place, Odessa, Texas, the late 1970s. It may not be that misery was born in Odessa, but it sure seems eager to stop by and visit as often as possible on its way to bigger game. (Why did God give oil to West Texas? To make up for what he did to the land.) The focus is primarily, although not exclusively, on the females of this town, particularly four living on Larkspur Lane.Mary Rose Whitehead stepped up to protect young Gloria in her hour of need, in heroic form. Her reward? Frequent calls, every day, of a threatening nature, enough to drive her to take a place in town, on Larkspur Lane, sparing her the vulnerable feeling of being left to fend for herself out near the oil patches while her husband was away at work.Corinne Shepherd had been doing her best to drink and smoke herself to death following the departure of her husband, Potter, six weeks dead. She had already been forced to retire from a lifetime of teaching by mouthing off to the wrong person in the teachers’ lounge. I think we might imagine the general subject matter. But she gets drawn into the vortex created by Dale’s crime and Mary Rose’s willingness to man up and testify, ironic, as MR’s husband gives her crap for having opened her door to Gloria in the first place.Debra Ann Pierce is ten, and the epitome of naïve optimism. This is the first Spring she has known since her mother, Ginny, left, promising, promising, promising to come back for her in a year, when she finally gets settled someplace else. Pop may not be really up to the task of raising his daughter alone. Debra Ann seems keen on connecting with Corinne, maybe looking for a substitute mother, or grandmother. Corinne’s impulse is to do the equivalent of waving a broom and yelling at her to get off her lawn, but DA persists. She is a great kid and you will love her. Particularly when she strikes up a heart-warming friendship with PFC Jesse Belden, late of the war, deaf in one ear, exploited by a relation in town, and living in a drainage pipe. And we follow Glory, who sees herself as a new person after her experience, so alters her name. Her trials are not over with surviving the rape and beating. Will she testify? Will she be able to return to school? While she is recovering from her many injuries, and laying low, there is an incredibly beautiful scene in which Glory is befriended for a time by an unlikely person. Have your tissues ready.There are more, Ginny Pierce, DA’s mother, fits the local demo for parenthood. (What do you call a single mother who has to be up early in the morning? A sophomore.) She may love her kid, but not enough to live this godawful withering life any longer. She really, really, really intends to come back for DA. Karla Sibley is a 17-year-old single mother working hard to make a better life. Suzanne Ledbetter, is trying to do better for her family that her ancestry might have predicted. Men are happy if you stay, but only on their terms. Women are meant to be at home, not in the work force. They are expected to tend the nest, making, and then taking care of babies. Appealing, no? Women in Odessa seem to either get burned out or burned up, dying to get out, or just dying. Most with the ability to dream want to leave, but some never get the chance. A local woman’s burned body has been found, the fourth in the past two years. What a thing an oil boom is for a town, Corinne used to tell Potter bitterly, it brings in the very best sort of psychopath. What is it like to be a woman, a female, growing up in a place where the land is sere and cold-hearted, the attitudes antediluvian, and where the opportunities for things to go bad far outweigh the chances for some actual self-realization, a place where good-old-boys tend to look after their own, regardless of their crimes, and crime victims are expected to shut up and somehow conclude that they had it coming. It is pretty tough to stand up when the local winds blow dark and hard and encourage one to dive for shelter. Yet, in this flat, miserable landscape there are glimmers of hope. Maybe this girl, this young woman can find a way to a better life. Maybe that woman can make something better out of a marriage gone stale. Maybe some people will be able to communicate meaningfully with some other people to stave off the darkness of solitude. It is these flashes of light that give us, that give any of the characters here, hope. Every August for the nearly thirty years she taught English, in an overheated classroom filled with farm boys and cheerleaders and roughneck wannabes reeking of aftershave and perfume, Corinne would spot the name of at least one misfit or dreamer on her fall roster. In a good year there might be two or three of them—the outcasts and weirdoes, the cellists and geniuses and acne ridden tuba players, the poets, the boys whose asthma precluded a high school football career and the girls who hadn’t learned to hide their smarts. Stories save lives, Corinne had said to those students. To the rest of them she said, I’ll wake you when it’s over. DA and Glory both loved the stories their mothers told them. DA gets more from her friend, Jesse. It is one of the things that binds them. The novel alternates perspectives, Mary Rose’s being the only first-person account. Gloria’s horrific experience may be the MacGuffin of the novel, but Mary Rose is the character we spend the most time with, the one whose life remains in peril, even after Dale’s arrest, the one through whom other characters link. Wetmore is impressively skilled at conveying backstory. We get a very good idea of how all her major characters wound up where they are in 1976, and find out where some of them are headed in their lives ahead. I confess to pining to learn the where-are-they-now about many more of them. Each chapter contains links to other characters’ story lines, reminding me of the backstitch, binding the individual tales together to make a stronger wholeThe issue, the problem, the reality of secrecy pervades the story. Almost everyone is hiding something now or has done some serious squirreling away of intel in the years before. And, of course, there are those who cover the truth in self-serving lies, even though the truth is barely secret at all. Hoping for better, for example, can be a heavy secret when resignation is the norm.Panhandle Dust Storm - image from the author's siteOdessa is a scary place. The weather is a large player here, the landscape oppressive, persistent, and hostile. Wetmore’s descriptions give aspiring writers something to aim for. Tonight the wind blows like it’s got something to prove. [It] moves from window to window, a small animal sharpening its claws on the screens. Out at the ranch you hear this sound and you think possum or maybe armadillo. Here in town you might think of a squirrel or somebody’s cat. Lately the wind makes me think of animals that have not been here for a hundred years, panthers and wolves, or twisters that threaten to lift my children impossibly high in the air, only to fling them back to earth. Small animals dash across the stage from time to time, almost always toting some smaller creature in their mouths. It is a red-in-tooth-and-claw place, and not just for the people. Danger also comes in the form of dark-intentioned telephone calls. Mary Rose is not the only woman who gets them.You may be reminded in reading this of another excellent ensemble-cast look at an out of the way place, Bryn Chancellor’s beautifully written 2017 debut, Sycamore, or maybe Jennifer Haigh’s Baker Towers, weaving together the lives of a community to tell a whole story. I have read only two books (The other being My Dark Vanessa) so far slated for publication in 2020. (It now being July, 2019) As it happens, both of them are bloody spectacular, both deserving candidates for book of the year recognition. It promises to be an amazing year.The only real gripe I have is that it will be such a long wait until March, 2020, when Valentine is scheduled for release. (really, not February?) But I assure you it will be worth the wait. Elizabeth Wetmore has written a masterful novel, one that will touch your heart, and impress you, whether you are a casual reader or literary-deconstruction sort. It is a beautifully written book that takes on real-world subjects, a great, great novel. This is one Valentine you will want to make all yours. The harvest moon has come early this year, blood red and beautiful against the darkening sky. Try floating with your ears under the water, Tina had said to Glory as they drifted across the swimming pool that afternoon. Listen, she said, the sounds from the highway will blend together—a truck hauling pipeline or water, a flatbed turning onto the highway, the drill on a rig slowly winding itself up, they will all start to sound alike. You can tell yourself you’re hearing anything, Tina said, her large white arms floating next to her like buoys. And will you look at that sky? It’s a wonder, a damned wonder. Review posted – July 26, 2019Publication date – March 31, 2020=============================EXTRA STUFFThe author’s personal, FB, Instagram, and GR pages Wetmore teaches creative writing in the Chicago area. She has received multiple fellowships and held sundry residencies. Her writing has appeared in The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, Baltimore Review, and probably more. I admire and respect her for this, but as much for having once driven a cab. By the author-----Baltimore Review - Women & Horses (1976) - The story of Debra Ann’s mother leaving. It does not exactly match the chapter in which Ginny says goodbye to Debra Ann, but it is worth a look. It works as a top-notch stand-alone piece. It was published in 2013.-----The Iowa Review - Shelter in Place - Jon Ledbetter (Suzanne Ledbetter’s husband in the book) heading into the plant to deal with an accident, possible benzene spill. Good stuff.Items of Interest-----Anne Sexton’s Live or Die-----Ella Fitzgerald - My Funny Valentine
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    Im still basking with profound aw!!! Review to come....Update: My little book review...... :)Valentine, by Elizabeth Wetmore will be released in April - 2020 ..Put it on your wishlist. Pre-pay-order it beg- borrow -or steal it. Literary readers will fall in love with this novel. Fiction readers will simply love the characters will ache at times, be moved other times. Emotions will be felt! Readers who appreciate beautiful writing will melt!! Im a reader not a writer I could never do this book I’m still basking with profound ‘aw’!!! Review to come....Update: My little book review...... :)“Valentine”, by Elizabeth Wetmore will be released in April - 2020 …..Put it on your wishlist…. Pre-pay-order it — beg- borrow -or steal it. Literary readers will fall in love with this novel. Fiction readers will simply love the characters —will ache at times, be moved other times. Emotions ‘will’ be felt! Readers who appreciate beautiful writing will melt!! I’m a reader —not a writer —I could never do this book the justice it deserves — but its so so so darn GOOD!!!! Yet…this book deserves all the praise one could give it. I fully appreciate this books blurb: All of it!!!!! A great written blurb!!! Its TRUTHFUL!!!Elizabeth Wetmore can definitely be compared with Barbara Kingsolver, and Elizabeth Strout. I might even add Wallace Stegner. She couldn’t possibly be a beginner novelist — this might be her first novel — but her talent is exceptional. Wetmore’s compassionate authorial generosity toward her characters are brimming with wisdom about the human spirit. It’s one of the best literary -’debut’- novels I’ve read in years…..written with purpose beyond the storytelling. I found this novel to be deeply introspective, both visionary and lucid — fiction for humanity —with many passages to relish. In “Valentine”, we become entranced with the rich complexities between man, woman, and land. ‘WOMAN’ - MAN -and LAND!!!!! *Will Byrnes* wrote a terrific review on Goodreads — He did such an outstanding job describing the characters - the plot - time & place - with highlighted excerpts …..(even stole an excerpt I, too, was going to include in my review) — haha…So rather than re-invent the wheel — I’ll do my best to try to contribute other aspects that resonated with me —Heck —the ENTIRE NOVEL resonated with my heart -my soul - and my mind —If this novel doesn’t win some major book award — then something is very wrong!!! Tidbit teasers — sumptuous prose excerpts: [setting, late 70’s, Odessa, Texas]*Mary Rose Whitehead*: ….the young mother - 26 years old - and 7 months pregnant - who first sees *Gloria Ramirez* after she walked away from a brutal rape…..says:“The church I grew up in taught us that sin, even if it happens only in your heart, condemns you all the same. Grace is not assured to any of us, maybe not even most of us, and while being saved gives you a fighting chance, you must always hope that the sin lodged in your heart, like a bullet that cannot be removed without killing you, is not of the mortal kind. The church wasn’t big on mercy, either. When I tried to explain myself to Robert in the days after the crime, when I told him I had sinned against this child, betrayed her in my heart, he said my only sin had been opening the door in the first place, not thinking of my own damned kids first. The real sin, he said, was some people letting their daughters run the streets all night long. I can hardly stand to look at him”. *Corrine Shepard*:….its only been six weeks since her husband *Potter* died. It was easy to understand why she often added a bit of bourbon to her ice tea. Sitting in a bar alone one night reminded me what depression looks like:“The man looked at her briefly and then decided to ignore her. It was the best thing about being an old lady with thinning hair and boobs saggy enough to prop up on a bar. Finally, she could sit down on a barstool and drink yourself blind without some jackass hassling her”. Corrine and her deceased husband, Potter, had fights over money, and sex, or who would mow the yard or wash the dishes or pay the bills....and they both might have fallen for other people for a few years -.but they always waited for their love to return to each other —and when they did — oh….what a wonder!!! I ached for Corrine - and her loss. I have two friends whose husband’s died this summer — they would give anything to have them back -dirty smelly socks, fights and and all. *Debra Ann Pierce*….. is a spunky 10 year old girl …. Perhaps her clothes will give you a small flavor of her sassiness personality:“a hot pink T-shirt that says ‘Superstar’ and a pair of orange terrycloth shorts that barely cover the tops of her thighs”. This bouncy young girl will steal your heart. *Ginny Pierce*….says:“What kind of woman runs out on her husband and her daughter? The kind who understands that the man who shares her bed is, and will always be, just the boy who got her pregnant. The kind who can’t stand thinking that she might someday tell her own daughter: All this ought to be good for you. The kind who believes she’s coming back, just as soon as she finds someplace where she can settle down.” {Debra Ann wants her mother, Ginny to COME BACK}.*Karla Sibley*….. was barely 17….a local waitress. She had a new baby at home with her mama. ….*Dale Strickland* - is the man charged with aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder. As we read and wonder how justice will be served — it wasn’t ‘the-getting-there’ and the outcome that drove this novel for me — it was the characters themselves. I really cared for them. *Suzanne Ledbetter* is a kick supporting character —a redhead who wears ironed orange petal pushers —She was the Mrs. Volunteer of American — She believed in “sunlight, bleach, and not hiding little white lies”. Annoyingly-loving funny woman!…Aimee, Robert, Pastor Rob, Keith Taylor - are other characters you’ll get to know —*Gloria Ramirez*….insisted on being called *Glory* after the night she was raped — ….a horrifying night - hard to talk about - impossible to forget — Elizabeth begins and ends her story with Gloria’/Glory….. harrowing & inspiring!“Even the buffalo and blue grama grasses, thin and pliant as they are, have been holding their breath”. I held my breath a few times too!!!“Why did God give oil to Texas? To make up what he did to the land”. “Why don’t girls from Odessa play hide-and-go-seek?Because nobody would go look for them”.Powerful, passionate, intimate, astonishing, an unforgettable rich cast of characters!!!I don’t think I’ll ever forget this novel.It would make a great film! Thank you *Emily Griffin*, and HarperCollins publishing for sending me a copy of this wonderful novel. Thank you *Will Byrnes* for being my friend and inspiration for this novel!!!
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    The year is 1976 and Odessa, Texas is experiencing an oil boom. Men from different locations have all come to the fields, looking for work and a chance to make big money. They are hard working, but also hard drinking, which creates potential problems for the women in the town.The book opens with an act of violence against a 14 yr. Old Mexican girl. When she turns up on Mary Roses doorstep, her horrifying condition brings out the defender in her. Her defense of this girl and the violence done by The year is 1976 and Odessa, Texas is experiencing an oil boom. Men from different locations have all come to the fields, looking for work and a chance to make big money. They are hard working, but also hard drinking, which creates potential problems for the women in the town.The book opens with an act of violence against a 14 yr. Old Mexican girl. When she turns up on Mary Roses doorstep, her horrifying condition brings out the defender in her. Her defense of this girl and the violence done by the young man who arrives shortly after looking for the girl, will change the life of her family.Many in the town defend the young man and Mary Rose receives threats and pressure to not testify. Many in the town think the girl was asking for it and even if not she was only a Mexican so what does it matter.We hear from the women themselves, those who support Mary Rose and try to help her. We hear from a young ten year old girl, whose mother has left and whose father is always working. She befriends a young man who is living in a drainage pipe. Soon things will get out of control.Terrific renderings of time and place, one feels as if they were living in this dust laden town. The way the story is put together reminds me of Elizabeth Strout and the way she structures her stories.. This is about women living within and trying to avoid the potential violence that is all around. Women's strength and vulnerability. Although it is violence that starts this story it is not a thriller, but rather about a town divided by racial injustice and how the women cope with what has happened and their lives as they try to hold on to what is important. This is a terrific book with a real message that is even more important today.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Paige
    January 1, 1970
    Yes, it start's out the day after a young teen's rape, but it doesn't stay there. It's a character driven novel that orbits around race, gender, and integrity in Odessa, Texas in 1976 as seen through the female perspective only. "Gloria could be any of our girls,...." "Why don't we give a shit about what happens to a girl like Glory Ramirez?" Rape details are not disclosed. The emotional and physical aftermath on Gloria (also known as Glory) are affirmed, but Gloria is given only 3 chapters Yes, it start's out the day after a young teen's rape, but it doesn't stay there. It's a character driven novel that orbits around race, gender, and integrity in Odessa, Texas in 1976 as seen through the female perspective only. "Gloria could be any of our girls,...." "Why don't we give a shit about what happens to a girl like Glory Ramirez?" Rape details are not disclosed. The emotional and physical aftermath on Gloria (also known as Glory) are affirmed, but Gloria is given only 3 chapters in the book. It tends to focus on the emotional effects. There were not a lot of gruesome details.This is primarily a literary novel that basks in a bounty literary elements. If you are looking for a quick read, this is not it. Each sentence was constructed to drive home a deeper meaning, intensify the essence of a character, or to advance the atmosphere. There were moments during the first half, that moved at a slower pace because of the excessive use of language. In the end, those longer descriptions and narrations really made me feel like I knew these women though. Some of them I won't forget.Chapters alternate point of view without pattern and are told from women living in Odessa during this time. The main characters are typically effected by that night Gloria was raped, either as distant witness or a community member. But, other women chime in with chapters (unrelated to Gloria's case) to solidify a setting that reflects gender inequity.I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley. Opinions are my own.
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    A must read! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ I will never forget this book or my experience reading Valentine. It wasnt easy to be a girl or woman in Odessa, Texas in 1976, and this book is about those women living the day-to-day. When Gloria Ramirez is violently attacked, the town is ripped apart. Gossip, blame, shame, and pure meanness rear their ugly heads.Valentine was not an easy book to read, but its one that Ill always be grateful I read. Crimes against women are nothing new, unfortunately, but the time period A must read! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I will never forget this book or my experience reading Valentine. It wasn’t easy to be a girl or woman in Odessa, Texas in 1976, and this book is about those women living the day-to-day. When Gloria Ramirez is violently attacked, the town is ripped apart. Gossip, blame, shame, and pure meanness rear their ugly heads.Valentine was not an easy book to read, but it’s one that I’ll always be grateful I read. Crimes against women are nothing new, unfortunately, but the time period and the story itself were told in a captivating, original voice. Even in the darkness and despair, the story offered hope and inspiration, and I think that’s what made me love it all the more. Emotional stories get to me like no other. I love the investment I feel when a book is something I can relate to, and once again, I’ll repeat myself. This book left its mark on me.I received a gifted copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
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  • Berit☀️✨
    January 1, 1970
    Profound. Poignant. Authentic. Raw. Beautiful. Elizabeth Wetmores debut Took my breath away and left me speechless. There is no way that my words can do this story justice. It was so beautifully written, so emotionally evocative, so true and authentic. West Texas 1976 The land is dry, the oil is pumping, guns are prevalent, racism is rampid, the good ole boys are in charge, and the women are in the home. When 14-year-old Gloria shows up on Mary roses porch battered and bruised she does not see Profound. Poignant. Authentic. Raw. Beautiful. Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut Took my breath away and left me speechless. There is no way that my words can do this story justice. It was so beautifully written, so emotionally evocative, so true and authentic. West Texas 1976 The land is dry, the oil is pumping, guns are prevalent, racism is rampid, the good ole boys are in charge, and the women are in the home. When 14-year-old Gloria shows up on Mary rose’s porch battered and bruised she does not see the young girl as a Mexican she sees her as her own daughter. When Gloria’s attacker shows up Mary Rose stands up to him a tense standoff ensues. Corine is a cantankerous older woman who is dealing with the recent death of her beloved husband Porter. When Mary Rose moves into town across from Corine the women form a bond based on mutual respect. The story is primarily told from the perspectives of Mary Rose, Gloria, and Corrine. We also get some snapshots from other characters including 10-year-old Debora Ann whose mother has just split town. Every character in this book has such a unique voice, such a profound story, and were so well drawn I just knew I would know who they were if they were walking down the street. The time and place was also perfectly developed, I could taste the dust in my mouth and smell the oil on my skin. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to listen to this on audio and the narrators Cassandra Campbell and Jenna Lamia were superb. They really brought this poignant and vivid story to life with their voices. A beautiful story about ugly subject matter, this is the type of book that stays with you long after you have finished the last page.This book in emojis. 🛢 🔫 🙏🏻 👭 *** Big thank you to Harper Collins and Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Valentine takes place during 1976 in Odessa, Texas on the brink of another oil boom. There is nothing romantic about life in Odessa. It is a hard place filled with hard men. You know those good ole boys that work hard, drink hard and expect women to know their place and stay there but this is really about the women. A young girl is brutally raped. This act of extreme violence sets off a whirlwind of blame, gossip and vindictiveness that culminates in a show down with potentially lethal Valentine takes place during 1976 in Odessa, Texas on the brink of another oil boom. There is nothing romantic about life in Odessa. It is a hard place filled with hard men. You know those good ole boys that work hard, drink hard and expect women to know their place and stay there but this is really about the women. A young girl is brutally raped. This act of extreme violence sets off a whirlwind of blame, gossip and vindictiveness that culminates in a show down with potentially lethal consequences. One woman tries to tell the truth and is met with nasty repercussions. Another runs from this savage town and leaves her sweet ten year old daughter bereft. Yet another struggles as a very young single mother trying to make ends meet. A crotchety older woman addicted to alcohol and tobacco becomes central to the action. A bold and intense novel, Valentine is shockingly powerful.
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  • Ceecee
    January 1, 1970
    The Year:- 1976. The place:- Odessa, West Texas. Oil boom. Its hell, hard, harsh, brutal, bigoted, full of machismo, mayhem, sexism, violence and injustice. When Gloria Ramirez, 15, is brutally raped it sets of a kind of chain reaction of blame, counter blame, prejudice, gossip and bigoted innuendo that some women are never the same again. Dale Strickland is the coward in question who thinks he can take what he wants and there will be few repercussions. Sadly, hes right despite Mary Rose, whos The Year:- 1976. The place:- Odessa, West Texas. Oil boom. It’s hell, hard, harsh, brutal, bigoted, full of machismo, mayhem, sexism, violence and injustice. When Gloria Ramirez, 15, is brutally raped it sets of a kind of chain reaction of blame, counter blame, prejudice, gossip and bigoted innuendo that some women are never the same again. Dale Strickland is the coward in question who thinks he can take what he wants and there will be few repercussions. Sadly, he’s right despite Mary Rose, who’s ranch poor Gloria staggers to, standing up to him both for herself and the girl against the arrogance of the male dominated society. Mary Rose is my hero of this story as she has guts and sass. She moves away from the ranch as she can no longer bear the place or her husbands attitude and moves opposite Corinne Shepard. Corinne is struggling after the death of her husband and is doing her darned best to drink herself into a grave next to him. We also follow Debra Ann Pierce who is 10 and running feral after her mum Ginny runs out on her. DA is kind and resourceful. These women/child connect together in this superb debut novel and is told in alternate storylines by the female protagonists. The writing of this thought provoking snapshot of a period of time has been described as masterful. It is. Elizabeth Wetmore has been compared to writers such as Elizabeth Strout. She should be. Her prose is beautiful, creative and original, she build tension perfectly, makes you feel a powerful array of emotions from sadness to anger at the injustice, venom towards Dale and despair that men had so much power at this time. Some characters are very caring and kind and that is a welcome relief. The hostile environment, hostile people, hostile weather and hostile wildlife provides a perfect backdrop to the unfolding drama and some of the descriptions of the area are superb. The alternating storylines flows well and the author matches the personality to the tone of the writing so that you get a real sense of their character. There is sensitivity and understanding in the approach to Gloria's story and you feel her pain, she refuses to be called Gloria after the rape as she is not the same person and calls herself Glory. Overall, a wonderful and very powerful story which depicts the characters well but is also an excellent portrayal of the times and attitudes of the ‘70’s world. It’s is beautifully written and is one of those books that touches you, makes you feel what the characters feel and is most certainly a book I will remember. Highly recommended.Special thanks to NetGalley and 4th Estate and William Collins for the ARC.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    For fans of literary fiction with multiple narratives, the book begins with Gloria, a 14 year old girl who has been violently attacked. (There is no graphic detail of the violence, which I was very appreciative of.) She seeks help from the inhabitants of a farm house in the distance and from there we move to Mary Rose and her first person account of Gloria's escape and how to help her. The most common time of day I have to read is when I'm in bed before I go to sleep. I was pretty tired when I For fans of literary fiction with multiple narratives, the book begins with Gloria, a 14 year old girl who has been violently attacked. (There is no graphic detail of the violence, which I was very appreciative of.) She seeks help from the inhabitants of a farm house in the distance and from there we move to Mary Rose and her first person account of Gloria's escape and how to help her. The most common time of day I have to read is when I'm in bed before I go to sleep. I was pretty tired when I started this book, but I quickly woke right up. I haven't read a book this year that has held my attention and had my heart beating the way this one did. It was INTENSE. It was RIVETING. Those first two "chapters", (which put me at 10% completion), made me very excited for what I was about to read. Unfortunately, once the "third" chapter began and we were living through Corrine's narrative, the book completely jumped in time and that feeling I had was lost. It was replaced with confusion. Wait a minute...I thought I was reading about Gloria and what happened to her? I want to go back - I want to know what happened!! This was my biggest frustration with this book. It was well written and I confess that I am a person that struggles with multiple narratives at times (when you like one or two, but could do without others you're kind of stuck). I didn't realize that this was how the book was laid out. There isn't anything wrong with how it was written and I did enjoy the slow unraveling of how each woman was connected by Gloria's rape, but I saw the potential for what could have been and was left feeling disappointed."Because when I ask myself what is lost between Robert and me, Mary Rose paused and looked at her hands, turned them over and over. Well. How would I even know? Shit, I got my first cheerleading outfit when I was still in diapers. All of us did. If we were lucky, we made it to twelve before some man or boy, or well-intentioned woman who just thought we out to know the score, let us know why we were put on this earth. To cheer them on. To smile and bring a little sunshine into the room. To prop them up and know them, and be nice to everybody we meet. I married Robert when I was seventeen years old, went straight from my father's house to his. Mary Rose sat down on a lawn chair and leaned her head against the patio table and began to cry. Is this what I'm supposed to do? she said. Cheer him on?" 83% completionThank you to Edelweiss, Harper Books and Elizabeth Wetmore for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review.Review Date: 03/30/2020Publication Date: 03/21/2020
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  • Mackenzie - PhDiva Books
    January 1, 1970
    Haunting and exquisite, this is the sort of book that carried a heavy stillness when I read it, where nothing else seemed to exist besides me and the story I was reading.This book is so beautifully written, Elizabeth Wetmore is truly talented and brings a depth and authenticity to the heavy topics dealt with in this story. It is also a story that Im particularly honored to feature on International Womens Day, being a book filled with incredible women who make small and large actions to support Haunting and exquisite, this is the sort of book that carried a heavy stillness when I read it, where nothing else seemed to exist besides me and the story I was reading.This book is so beautifully written, Elizabeth Wetmore is truly talented and brings a depth and authenticity to the heavy topics dealt with in this story. It is also a story that I’m particularly honored to feature on International Women’s Day, being a book filled with incredible women who make small and large actions to support other women, even at the expense of themselves.Beginning with the tragic and evocative aftermath of a sexual assault told to us by the 14-year old victim and survivor Gloria Ramirez, Valentine is clearly marked as no ordinary book. Avoiding the graphic elements of the assault, Wetmore instead describes the aftermath through the small elements that allow this incredibly brave and vulnerable young woman to ground herself and survive the attack. The feeling of the sandy dirt, the view across the flat landscape, the sight of her own foot. These solid, objective elements let her know that she is still present, despite the disassociation that she may have experienced.When Gloria shows up on the porch of Mary Rose’s ranch on the morning after Valentine’s Day, Mary Rose is far along in her pregnancy and has her own daughter to protect. And yet, Mary Rose is instantly one of the most captivating characters of the novel, noting that she should turn this unknown girl away to protect herself and her family—it’s what her husband would want her to do—and yet Mary Rose is no ordinary woman. She has a strength to fight back that she allowed to go dormant for so long.As each chapter progresses, other women enter the narrative. There is Corrine, who has suffered her own hard times. And there is Debra Ann and Karla, who are young but not weak. Each woman (and girl) have their own story to tell. They all revolve around the toxic masculinity of the town they live in, and the women who stand up suffer some severe consequences. The unapologetic racism and sexism are prevalent in the town of Odessa, and I loved the way the chain of rebellion—beginning with Gloria merely surviving and then Mary Rose not allowing Goria’s attacker in the house—picked up momentum through the book. Each woman whose story intertwines with Goria’s makes the thread stronger, until there is power in the women pushing back against the much stronger patriarchy of the town of Odessa.And yet there is the unavoidable heaviness to a story like this and sadness. This is not a fairy tale that Elizabeth Wetmore has crafted. This is a story that was so authentic feeling, that I actually forgot that it isn’t non-fiction. The descriptive language is captivating, and the narrative is woven together so delicately as if spun from glass. Beautiful, haunting, and unforgettable.Thank you to the team at Harper Books for my copy. Opinions are my own.
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  • Katie B
    January 1, 1970
    There was so much sadness to this story as well as some parts that made me angry but it made for an incredible reading experience. I feel like this book just spoke to me as a woman, and that's not something I say very often, if ever. I'm kicking myself that I let a copy of this book sit on my shelf for months before finally picking it up. This is a book if you can handle tough subject matter, I do recommend giving this one a look.The story takes place in 1979 in Odessa, Texas. Fourteen-year-old There was so much sadness to this story as well as some parts that made me angry but it made for an incredible reading experience. I feel like this book just spoke to me as a woman, and that's not something I say very often, if ever. I'm kicking myself that I let a copy of this book sit on my shelf for months before finally picking it up. This is a book if you can handle tough subject matter, I do recommend giving this one a look.The story takes place in 1979 in Odessa, Texas. Fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez has been taken to an oil field by a man who then rapes her. She is able to escape and finds a ranch house where a pregnant woman named Mary Rose lives with her young daughter and husband. The story shows the aftermath of the rape and how it affected Gloria as well as the public perception of it. The story alternates between Gloria as well as other female characters including Mary Rose, Corrine, a recent widow, a young girl named Debra Ann Pierce,and Karla, a waitress and young mother. The opening chapters of this book were absolutely heart pounding and terrifying. I thought using females of varying ages was an effective way to tell the story. Near the end when the story finally featured Karla, I thought what could this character add so late in the game? But she really turned out to have a vital role in my opinion. While I was already feeling connected to all of the female characters, Karla really drove home the point that as women, we do have to look out for one another and so many times we do it without even thinking about it. By instinct and experience, we try our best to protect each other. The different things her co-workers did for her are just one example of how life for a female is different than that of a male. This is a difficult book to read but I absolutely thought it was worth my time. There have been many recent fiction books that explore the subject of crimes against females but this is only one of a few I have read that actually features a different time period rather than the current one. While many attitudes have changed since 1979, it continues to be frustrating how victims are treated even 40 years later. I'm thankful the author deemed that as something important to explore in this novel.I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    Its early in the morning of the 15th of February, 1976 as this story begins, and Gloria Ramirez is sitting outside of a pickup truck on the ground, while the young man who brutally assaulted her physically and sexually earlier sits, passed out from all the alcohol he drank, inside his truck. She counts the seconds passing, watching and waiting for the right moment to make a run for the nearest place where she can hide. Not an easy feat where the land is so flat it is hard to measure the distance It’s early in the morning of the 15th of February, 1976 as this story begins, and Gloria Ramirez is sitting outside of a pickup truck on the ground, while the young man who brutally assaulted her physically and sexually earlier sits, passed out from all the alcohol he drank, inside his truck. She counts the seconds passing, watching and waiting for the right moment to make a run for the nearest place where she can hide. Not an easy feat where the land is so flat it is hard to measure the distance by looking at it, but when she sees a farmhouse in the distance as light begins to fill the sky, she begins, as silently as possible, to make her way there. All the while hoping that she can get there before he wakes up, and that whoever lives there will help.When Mary Rose Whitehead answers her door, pregnant with her second child, and a nine year-old daughter inside when they hear the knock on the door. When she opens the door she sees two blackened eyes, one swollen, the scrapes, cuts and bruises covering the rest of this girl standing on her porch, calls for her daughter to first bring her the rifle, and then to call the Sheriff, and only then turns to ask the girl what her name is. Minutes later, she notices the cloud of dust kicked up by the last minute turn of a pickup truck, and she ushers the girl inside her house. Things happen quickly; so quickly that she forgets to ask her daughter if she had called the sheriff.This story is shared from several perspectives and points of view, from Gloria’s - who changes her name to Glory in an effort to separate this life-altering moment from who she was from who she will become in the years to come – to Mary Rose, along with a host of others. This writing is stunningly impressive; the story took my breath away, even more so since this is a debut novel. I didn’t want to put it down, and resented everything that pulled me away from time to read it. I loved that despite the darkness one would expect from how this begins, there is so much more to this story that offers hope and promise, that shows the good that does exist, and reminds us of all that is lovely and good in this world, despite the darkness that remains.It’s early in the year, I know, but I doubt I’ll read a more impressive debut novel in the remaining months. Pub Date: 31 MAR 2020Many thanks for the ARC provided by HarperCollins Publishers / Harper
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    Any form of complacency is the kiss of death.Elizabeth Wetmore explores this deeply and profoundly in Valentine. Side glances seeking corners of escape, refusal to accept what stares hard and long at you, hearts and minds willing to take no action. These are the creatures that find sustenance in the callousness of inertia.Odessa, Texas in the late 1970's is a cesspool of wayward men seeking their fortune in the vastness of the oilfields. The dust blows non-stop and carries its grit beneath the Any form of complacency is the kiss of death.Elizabeth Wetmore explores this deeply and profoundly in Valentine. Side glances seeking corners of escape, refusal to accept what stares hard and long at you, hearts and minds willing to take no action. These are the creatures that find sustenance in the callousness of inertia.Odessa, Texas in the late 1970's is a cesspool of wayward men seeking their fortune in the vastness of the oilfields. The dust blows non-stop and carries its grit beneath the surface of unattainable dreams and desires. It turns these individuals into hardened, frustrated tumbleweeds of despair. The women exist in the shadows taking the brunt of knowing that their role is to put up and shut up. Generation after generation followed in the ruts of this morbid life. If it was good enough for my daddy......But an unspeakable act will turn and toss Odessa into a day of reckoning. Fourteen year old Gloria Ramirez will make the deadly decision of opening the car door of a handsome blue-eyed young man at the local teenage hangout. Gloria's defiance of her mother's house rules combined with the deadend taste of Odessa will have an impact that no one saw coming. When Gloria ends up on the porch of Mary Rose's ranch on the outskirts of Odessa, Mary Rose will pay a price far exceeding anything she could have imagined.Valentine is a remarkable character study of females in the grip of a dusty, god-forsaken oil town. Wetmore creates women of all ages and backgrounds and weaves them into a storyline of justice and lack thereof. We gasp at their mindsets and shake our heads as Wetmore goes deeper and deeper into the tightly drawn threads that formed these females in the late 1970's. We also observe the seeds of doubt taking root and the pressing buds of change. A female backbone is a prized possession no matter what era it develops in.Valentine is a must-read.....simply and emphatically. Take it from a Texan who knows.I received a copy of Valentine through Goodreads Giveaways for an honest review. My thanks to HarperCollins Publishers and to Elizabeth Wetmore for the opportunity.
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  • Brenda -Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    Again I found myself lost in the descriptive writing to a story and I struggled through the story trying to figure what it was exploring. I was intrigued by Gloria and Mary Rose's storyline here but it felt like more of a side story and I wanted to see more focus on it. There were too many characters and I struggled with keeping track of who was who. I couldn't connect with any of the characters and this one just didn't work for me. I received a copy on EW
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  • Tina
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the first part of this book, but by the middle of the book I really hated the fact we follow 5 people. I feel we follow to many characters and they had to much going on. I would get into to one of the characters then we would jump to the next character. I feel if we only followed two characters in the book it would be a great book. Ton much put into to this book for me. I won an acr copy of this book from a goodreads giveaway, but this review is 100% my own opinion of this book.
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  • Ash
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.First, let me just get this petty detail out of the way before I move on to more important things: Im sick and tired of literary fiction authors refusing to use quotation marks. Why must they insist on making the reading experience unnecessarily difficult and inaccessible? Stop it! Stop throwing dialogue in the middle of a paragraph with no indication that someone is speaking!Anyway. Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.First, let me just get this petty detail out of the way before I move on to more important things: I’m sick and tired of literary fiction authors refusing to use quotation marks. Why must they insist on making the reading experience unnecessarily difficult and inaccessible? Stop it! Stop throwing dialogue in the middle of a paragraph with no indication that someone is speaking!Anyway. By far the best aspect of this book was its setting. Elizabeth Wetmore uses vivid imagery and descriptive language that transported me to West Texas in 1976. It was positively atmospheric: the desert, the wildlife, the oil fields, the town of Odessa. The characters were complex and varied, with clear, distinct voices. Wetmore alternates between the perspectives of seven different women – yes, all women, and I really don’t think she could have effectively told this story any other way – and offers a slice (or more) of each of their lives. I didn’t love that she wrote one character’s chapters in first person, one (weirdly) in first person plural, and the rest in third.Two of the characters’ perspectives, Glory and Mary Rose, revolve around the aftermath of Glory’s rape and how their lives have changed as a result. But the other characters’ perspectives sometimes felt like they were telling a different story, one where what happened to Glory lurks in the background but certainly isn’t the main theme. I still enjoyed those chapters, but I wish the book had been more focused. Wetmore touches on subjects of racism and misogyny, weaving them naturally into the story. She makes insightful, relevant points about being a woman in a patriarchal world, and she does so more deftly and gracefully and poignantly than many authors before her.Normally I’d have plenty to say after a book like this, but I’m finding myself at a loss for words. This is definitely a book that will make you think, and feel, and maybe change your perspective. Even if there were some things here and there that I thought could have been tweaked, I would still highly recommend it.
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  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    Valentine, the debut novel by Elizabeth Wetmore, opens in a moment of sizzling silence, like the pause between rattlesnake strikes.The sun rises on a 14-year-old girl named Gloria Ramírez. Shes been beaten and raped. Dale Strickland, her roughneck assailant, is sleeping off the nights brutality in his truck. Gloria figures shes got a few minutes to creep away across the Texas desert barefoot before he wakes up and kills her.The tightening terror of this first chapter is impossible to break away “Valentine,” the debut novel by Elizabeth Wetmore, opens in a moment of sizzling silence, like the pause between rattlesnake strikes.The sun rises on a 14-year-old girl named Gloria Ramírez. She’s been beaten and raped. Dale Strickland, her roughneck assailant, is sleeping off the night’s brutality in his truck. Gloria figures she’s got a few minutes to creep away across the Texas desert barefoot before he wakes up and kills her.The tightening terror of this first chapter is impossible to break away from, but “Valentine” is a novel that serpentines around our expectations. This is not yet another thriller exploiting the plight of a young woman. Although Gloria remains the center of the plot, Wetmore quickly shifts our attention to a circle of women who respond to her assault.Among those most affected is Mary Rose Whitehead, the first person to see Gloria after th. . . .To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    Surely this cannot be a debut novel. Its so beautifully assured, so wrenching, so poignant, so masterfully written. Yet somehow, it is, and it grabbed at my heartstrings and broke my heart at the same time.Set in the 1970s in Odessa, Texas, the book opens with a gut punch: the violence against and rape of 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez and the fault lines that occur in the town as no-gooder Dale Strickland is charged. Elizabeth Wetmore dives deep into the internal lives of her characters: Mary Rose Surely this cannot be a debut novel. It’s so beautifully assured, so wrenching, so poignant, so masterfully written. Yet somehow, it is, and it grabbed at my heartstrings and broke my heart at the same time.Set in the 1970s in Odessa, Texas, the book opens with a gut punch: the violence against and rape of 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez and the fault lines that occur in the town as no-gooder Dale Strickland is charged. Elizabeth Wetmore dives deep into the internal lives of her characters: Mary Rose Whitehead, who opens the door to Gloria after the rape and who is one of the lone voices for justice, her reclusive neighbor Corrine Shepard who is having trouble processing the death of her husband, young Debra Ann (think of Scout Finch) who has imaginary friendships and one forbidden friendship that is very real, and others.Ms. Wetmore captures the land and the times perfectly: a hypocritical town where a person dare not utter the Lord’s name in vain (yet can do all sorts of unspeakable things in his name), a time where a woman applying for a teacher’s position must provide the consent of her husband, a justice system where a judge can make good-old-boy asides. But at the novel’s core is the poison of hatred and bigotry that move through students, their parents, churchgoers and neighbors, and men sitting at the bar and in the bleachers. As one of the characters states, one way or the other, this position will eventually kill you but you can do some real damage on your way out the door.Still, the reader cannot help but think that life is on the precipice of change in Odessa, and the characters – particularly Mary Rose, Gloria, and Debra Ann – are powerfully wrought. This book is going to end up on my Top Books of 2020 list. It’s truly a Valentine to readers.
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  • Mary Lins
    January 1, 1970
    I'm always skeptical when a novel is compared to the works of authors that I admire, in this case Strout and Kingsolver, because Ive been burned too many times by this PR tactic. But Valentine, by Elizabeth Wetmore is indeed an amazing debut! Be prepared to be immediately thrust into the day after Valentines Day, 1976, in the Permian Basin (oil fields) area of West Texas. As dawn approaches we meet Gloria Ramirez who is 14 and has just been raped by a young, white roughneck. Youre hooked, youre I'm always skeptical when a novel is compared to the works of authors that I admire, in this case Strout and Kingsolver, because I’ve been burned too many times by this PR tactic. But “Valentine”, by Elizabeth Wetmore is indeed an amazing debut! Be prepared to be immediately thrust into the day after Valentine’s Day, 1976, in the Permian Basin (oil fields) area of West Texas. As dawn approaches we meet Gloria Ramirez who is 14 and has just been raped by a young, white roughneck. You’re hooked, you’re gripped with the suspense, but mostly you are thrust into a world of characters. Each section is told from the point of view of one of a collection female characters of various ages and places in life. Wetmore masterfully creates a compelling, diverse, and realistic group of related characters each with a distinct voice and interesting story line, as it relates to Gloria and the search for justice. Among these memorable characters are 10 year-old, Debra Ann Pierce, and retired widow Corrine Shepard (who reminded me very much of Olive Kitterage – hence the “Strout” shout out, I’m sure!) Each character is drawn with revealing detail, like uber-mother Suzanne, and her savagely bitten cuticles. That Wetmore can write with confidence and realism of such diverse characters is a testament to her talent. Not only does Wetmore create memorable characters, and a riveting story-line, her prose is remarkable; take this description: “The day is lit up like an interrogation room, the sun a fierce bulb in an otherwise empty sky.” (I know I have a pre-published copy, but there is no way that line is going to get cut from the final draft!) The novel is full of sentences I stopped to savor. Texas is as much of a character in this novel, as the women depicted. Wetmore skillfully illustrates the vastness of Texas and the variability in geography, topography, and ethos. Texans know that there are different “personalities” across the Lone Star State. Houston is not like Dallas is not like San Antonio, is not like Odessa, etc…I grew up in Houston, a town both literally and figuratively built on oil, when pumpjacks (aka “Nodding Donkeys”) were ubiquitous. Houston has changed and grown dramatically over the years, but it’s still at heart a "Texas" town. So much of “Valentine” is evocative of the 1970s as I remember it, (Vietnam vets returning, songs, fashions, attitudes, racism, sexism, and the (un)likelihood for justice) which served to heighten the impact of this novel which is a snapshot in time, an important story, and a rich and beautifully rendered character study. I don't recall a more infuriating courtroom scene - and it is totally believable, and the climax is so suspenseful that I was on the edge of my "reading chair"!I will be thinking of this story long after I closed the book.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    VALENTINEBY ELIZABETH WETMOREI doubt that I can do Elizabeth Wetmore's debut novel called, "Valentine" justice it is just so compelling writing, that although this novel's publication date is April 2020, it is one of my favorite reading experiences this year at the tail end of 2019. It takes place in the western part of Texas in a town called Odessa. I would characterize this as a definite character study rich in detail and vivid detail. It takes place during the 1970's during an oil boom. The VALENTINEBY ELIZABETH WETMOREI doubt that I can do Elizabeth Wetmore's debut novel called, "Valentine" justice it is just so compelling writing, that although this novel's publication date is April 2020, it is one of my favorite reading experiences this year at the tail end of 2019. It takes place in the western part of Texas in a town called Odessa. I would characterize this as a definite character study rich in detail and vivid detail. It takes place during the 1970's during an oil boom. The land reminds me of a brownish, dust bowl with quite a few unforgiving and dangerous critters such as all of the dangerous snakes such as the rattlesnake that not only lurks in the oil fields but has also known to hide in the houses. I felt like I would not want to live there. There hasn't been any rain in nine months and the sun burns everybody with its unreal high temperatures that leaves most of the characters with being described as having freckles from their previous sunburns and peeling skin. .The book begins with a young Mexican-American girl named Gloria Ramirez trying to quietly escape a pick-up truck after going willingly with a rough shod of a bully named Dale Strickland who is a white racist. Gloria must escape before Dale wakes up after he brutally beat her and raped her and he has passed out and there is a menacing feeling that he wants to kill her. Gloria walks away and finds protection from a young mother with a daughter named Aimee and Mary Rose is pregnant but is a cracker jack shot with her rifle. Her husband is out working and Mary Rose tells Aimee to call the sheriff just in time before Dale comes driving up on the property demanding that Mary Rose hand Gloria over to him. Mary Rose was my favorite character who will have to move from her isolated farm into town for safety reasons since she is the sole witness in the upcoming trial.Corrine is sort of an Olive Kitteridge character at first who is a widow to her husband Potter who tragically takes his own life because he is already dying from a deadly brain tumor called Glioblastomia. It is sort of serendipity that Potter is dying from the type of tumor that has a 100 percent mortality rate that I have just read about a neurosurgeon that wrote a non=fiction account of his experiences operating on Glioblastomia's which was called, "I Have Seen the End of You." Eventhough Potter is dead he still plays a central character who is somewhat more of the gentler men in this book. Corrine can't seem to move any of Potter's things such as a crossword puzzle that he was working on. Debra Ann who has her own section as each section is broken up with each female character checks up on Corrine who won't answer her door or telephone to speak to their only child a daughter named Alice.Debra Ann is a precocious young girl who has make believe friend's until she meets a young man who is living in a drain pipe who has recently been released from the army with a blown eardrum. Debra Ann whose mother Ginny has gone on a sort of finding herself mission in Debra Ann's mind her mother will return before July 4th. Debra Ann steals a blanket and frozen casseroles and whatever this young ex-soldier writes down on a list that are provisions that he needs and she gets them for him. He is saving up his money to go home but first he has to pay one of his friend's back who has taken his truck. Debra Ann helps herself from all of her neighbor's to get him the items he needs.This was really a very fascinating and well above average written book where the characters come to life on the page. Although the landscape is very vibrantly described and Elizabeth Wetmore writes with a vision of what took place during the oil boom in the 1970's and there is violence she also writes with a tender restraint that is both hopeful and powerful. I was really in a place of warmth exuded from this very addictive and I didn't want to put the book down. All of her character's are unique from one another yet trying to survive their different plights in their lives. The prose is humming with poetic passage after passage. I am sad that this book had to end because the more that I read the more interesting these characters became for me. I almost want to start the book all over again and read it from cover to cover right now. This is one of the best debut novels that I have ever read. Wetmore has certainly made a fan out of me and I can't wait to read what she writes next. This is worthy of a more experienced writer. I am grateful that I got a chance to read such a talented author and a novel that I will definitely read again. It is that good.Thank you to Net Galley, Elizabeth Wetmore and Harper Collins Publishing for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
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  • Claire Fuller
    January 1, 1970
    This was a proof sent to me by the publisher. (I don't rate proofs on Goodreads - seems unfair - I want to wish the book the best, but I don't want to compromise my rating system.) But I LOVED this book. A wonderful cast of female characters living in a small West Texas town in 1976 just as an oil boom hits. The event that links them together is finely woven, the thread sometimes even disappears, but it's the women's and girl's lives, their hardships, that it what kept me reading. Beautifully This was a proof sent to me by the publisher. (I don't rate proofs on Goodreads - seems unfair - I want to wish the book the best, but I don't want to compromise my rating system.) But I LOVED this book. A wonderful cast of female characters living in a small West Texas town in 1976 just as an oil boom hits. The event that links them together is finely woven, the thread sometimes even disappears, but it's the women's and girl's lives, their hardships, that it what kept me reading. Beautifully written, this novel and author surely is going to go far.
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  • Mary Beth Keane
    January 1, 1970
    Such a well-written, powerful novel. An extraordinary debut. Add to your TBRs everyone! Out in April.
  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    Once upon a time in Odessa, Texas, 1976, during the cyclical boom and bust years, a young oil-rigging roughneck raped 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez on Valentines Day. Hence the eponymous title. Let that sink in. Gloria is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. Imagine how quickly the authority figures in this unforgiving scrubland are quick to control the narrative, particularly the men. No hearts and flowers. Debut novelist Elizabeth Wetmore captures the casual but lethal misogyny of men toward Once upon a time in Odessa, Texas, 1976, during the cyclical boom and bust years, a young oil-rigging roughneck raped 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez on Valentine’s Day. Hence the eponymous title. Let that sink in. Gloria is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. Imagine how quickly the authority figures in this unforgiving scrubland are quick to control the narrative, particularly the men. No hearts and flowers. Debut novelist Elizabeth Wetmore captures the casual but lethal misogyny of men toward women with a timestamp both powerful and gripping. Her measured, minimalist yet vivid narrative captures the era in all its bone dry and big sky grandeur. “The sky turns purple in the east, then blue-black, then old-bucket slate. In a few minutes it will be orange and red… the land stretched tight beneath the sky, brown stitched to blue…The sky is the best thing about West Texas, when you can remember to look at it.”The first pages begin at the end of the assault, and we watch Gloria pull herself together with her depleted stores of mental strength, because she doesn’t want to die. In daylight, the landscape opens up to reveal a litter of pump jacks, oil patches, mesquite, and always the hot sun punishing the sand and scrub while the girl, who spots a farmhouse, walks steadily toward it for safety. “There are piles of caliche rocks and stacks of old pipeline where rat snakes and copperheads and rattlers lie entwined, their breath slow and regular, waiting for spring.”This traumatic event kicks off a story of interconnected characters, centering on the women and ethnic minorities immersed in this hardscrabble West Texas life. Odessa is yet to be progressive; back then, it was downright terrifying for women who attempted to assert themselves. If you are an ethnic minority and your roots were in Mexico, you’re not even a second-class citizen (as women were); you were a third class citizen twice removed.A more nuanced, accepted violence --mental, emotional, and societal, and the overt objectification and narrow classification of females prevailed during this era. The reader is immersed in Odessa’s citizenry as well as its flora and fauna. Leave sentiment at the door, and when it does emerge, it’s earned. I could spend pages on Wetmore’s robust, strapping prose, her granular descriptions that also set mood, tone, voice, and atmosphere. The second person pov that only a master can pull off convincingly. Each sentence is rebellious and transcendent, a portrait of messy characters harboring hard secrets and long fears, salty tongues and a burst of inexorable courage. It’s primarily the voices of women-- how they coped, survived, and adapted to their lives. I can promise that not once will you find a platitude crawling from under any rock. The book just smokes.The main players are Gloria (Glory), who triggers the gradually unfolding plot; Corrine, a 60-something retired teacher—a grieving widow, an iconoclast; Debra Ann, a spunky, wiry and optimistic teenager with a weakness for horny toads, construction paper fortune-tellers, and lonely outcasts; and Mary Rose, a young mother pregnant with her next, weary and sleepless, rousingly so, as her mostly absent husband struggles in the failing cattle trade. These women and this story will sear into you with piercing clarity. Hope brackets tragedy in a drama peppered with screwball comedy wrapped in fresh tears. It’s all there, how women connected and men controlled. VALENTINE is one of the most lyrical and shattering books of the coming 2020 year—it deserves the Pulitzer. I cannot imagine a more phenomenally written book—I may have already said that.Prepare for some potent images that will nevertheless bring you to your knees. “She imagines her own limbs disconnected, fleeing into the desert to be picked clean by the coyotes she heard calling to each other all through the night. She imagines them blanched and worn smooth by the wind—a desert filled with dry bones, never to rise again--…”Read it and weep. And the sky, that West Texas star-filled sky. All my senses were piqued as the author tackles sound, sight, heat, cold, taste, as well as the politics between gender and class. VALENTINE is bracing in conflict and confrontation. You won’t read a better domestic and courtroom drama slash literary western; it may be the best novel I’ve read this year (publishing date April 2020). There’s something about a flawless portrayal of West Texas that few authors can wrest from their souls—Wetmore nails it. Even amid the majestic, endless skies there, women are suffocating and invisible. Immigrants are punished with crimes against their families. However, this narrative is the space where women also find their voices and let them be heard. Sharp and stout, seamlessly structured, Wetmore creates vibrant characters and a charged, electrifying story.Thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC to review.
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  • Suzanne thebookblondie
    January 1, 1970
    Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (#32 in 2020)The day after Valentine's Day in 1976, 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez escapes from a violent sexual assault. She runs to the nearest house, which happens to be the home of Mary Rose, pregnant and with her own young daughter. After arrests are made and a court date has been set, the people of Odessa, Texas pre-form their opinions on Gloria's attacker's level of guilt. Unfortunately, many look past his actions because of Gloria's heritage, creating a "gray Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (#32 in 2020)The day after Valentine's Day in 1976, 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez escapes from a violent sexual assault. She runs to the nearest house, which happens to be the home of Mary Rose, pregnant and with her own young daughter. After arrests are made and a court date has been set, the people of Odessa, Texas pre-form their opinions on Gloria's attacker's level of guilt. Unfortunately, many look past his actions because of Gloria's heritage, creating a "gray area" in which violence is overlooked when the victim's race is called into question. The setting is something that can only be experienced by actually reading this book. There is absolutely no way I can accurately convey the raw, artistic language Wetmore uses to depict Odessa, Texas in 1976. I think I had such a difficult time starting the review for this book because I wasn’t sure I could do the book justice. While the central conflict is that of Gloria's rape and of Mary Rose's role in her rescue, other characters also work their way to the forefront. As the perspective shifts between females of various ages, the reader begins to see a much bigger portrait of how gender, race, and class play a role in the course of events. Each varying perspective is female, and each is a warrior all her own proving the power of the feminine spirit.I read some reviews in which readers felt that there were too many characters and didn't understand the importance of some, but trust that each character's role is crucial to the bigger picture. Corinne, a depressed widow, and Debra Ann, a 10-year-old abandoned by her mother, share a special bond that develops as the plot moves. Debra Ann's character acts as a foil to Gloria's as she secretly finds herself befriending a male drifter with the trust that he won't hurt her. Debra Ann is so reminiscent of Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), and the innocence this child still has, amidst a community consumed by the topic of danger, reminded me so much of that timeless classic. At the same time, Corinne is almost a foil to Mary Rose as both women deal with their depression and trauma in vastly different ways.  Valentine is profound, it's moving, and it's the embodiment of catharsis from the first step Gloria takes after her attack to the very last word. Don't expect to speed-read this book; it's one you'll want to absorb and contemplate as you go. Valentine is a book I STILL cannot stop thinking about and one that will likely become a modern classic. 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    This book is kind of a conglomeration of short stories that are building blocks for the bigger story. A horrible crime is committed in a small, West Texas town, right on the cusp of the big oil boom. There are a number of characters that each tell a piece of the story. It begins with a 14 year old Mexican American girl as she summons her strength and courage to stand up and walk from the truck where she was assaulted for many hours while the young man was liquored up and on an amphetamine high This book is kind of a conglomeration of short stories that are building blocks for the bigger story. A horrible crime is committed in a small, West Texas town, right on the cusp of the big oil boom. There are a number of characters that each tell a piece of the story. It begins with a 14 year old Mexican American girl as she summons her strength and courage to stand up and walk from the truck where she was assaulted for many hours while the young man was liquored up and on an amphetamine high until he passed out leaving her beaten, bleeding, partially naked, and violated.The questions of a small town and race are at the heart of this book. Who will stand up for the under represented? Who will see them as children and equals? Who will protect the young man who just did something stupid one night? Or who will see that maybe he has this violence in him and may offend again? The best part about this book is the writing style. It was the details that brought visual pictures to mind. The sounds of the desert or the sounds of the city, the author describes very well but not ad nauseum. Just enough that the reader perks up her other senses and feels more for the characters in the book. I will gladly read anything Elizabeth Wetmore writes.Thank you to the publisher for an Advanced Reader's Copy in return for an honest review.
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  • Janelle | She Reads with Cats
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Harper Books for my free copy. VALENTINE is a poignant, captivating debut that focuses on what it means to be a woman in mid-1970s Odessa, Texas.We follow five extraordinarily brave female characters who are all connected in some way to the aftermath of the violent sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl.Gloria Ramírez was brutally attacked, battered and bruised. On the morning after Valentines Day, Gloria seeks help at a farmhouse where she finds Mary Rose Whitehead. Mary Rose takes her Thank you Harper Books for my free copy. VALENTINE is a poignant, captivating debut that focuses on what it means to be a woman in mid-1970s Odessa, Texas.We follow five extraordinarily brave female characters who are all connected in some way to the aftermath of the violent sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl.Gloria Ramírez was brutally attacked, battered and bruised. On the morning after Valentine’s Day, Gloria seeks help at a farmhouse where she finds Mary Rose Whitehead. Mary Rose takes her in as if she were her own in an attempt to help her escape this harrowing, dire situation.The city of Odessa is full of racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity so when woman like Mary Rose chooses to stand up and fight, you take notice - nothing pleases me more than strong, intriguing female leads. Wetmore’s writing is beautiful and the story is intense. The setting itself is written as a character, immersing you in the gritty, dry desert of Texas oil country. Alternating between multiple narrators adds weight and depth to the story. The story feels so real and the characters so authentic, you’ll think you can reach out and touch them. VALENTINE is a haunting, thrilling, emotional story that I will never forget.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you, 4th Estate, and NetGalley for a copy of Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore.Its 1976 in Odessa, West Texas. On a brink of an oil rush. 14-year-old girl Gloria Ramirez is raped on Valentines night. She is a daughter of a Mexican immigrant. So, there is no rush to find out who is responsible. Odessa is a male orientated land and rumours and one of them say that she consented. But the poor girl came home that night seriously battered and scarred for life. This story has several peoples points Thank you, 4th Estate, and NetGalley for a copy of Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore.It’s 1976 in Odessa, West Texas. On a brink of an oil rush. 14-year-old girl Gloria Ramirez is raped on Valentines night. She is a daughter of a Mexican immigrant. So, there is no rush to find out who is responsible. Odessa is a male orientated land and rumours and one of them say that she consented. But the poor girl came home that night seriously battered and scarred for life. This story has several people’s points of view, mainly women telling us of the everyday hardships they face in the male orientated land.Valentine is a beautifully written and thought-provoking novel set in 1970’s Texas. I did enjoy the first half of this book. Showing the hardships in them times of Texas. But I thought that there were too many characters and too much going’s on. That for me personally I got disengaged by the end of this book.
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  • Bonnie Brody
    January 1, 1970
    Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore is a novel about violence, trauma, racism and what it was like to be a woman living in Odessa, a city in western Texas, during the mid-1970's. Oil is spewing from so many oil fields that it is unbelievable. This drought-ridden desert of a place is a misbegotten city with not much going for it.On February 15, 1976, one of the oil workers picks up 14 year old Gloria Ramirez at a drive through hamburger joint and takes her to a deserted oil rig where he beats and Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore is a novel about violence, trauma, racism and what it was like to be a woman living in Odessa, a city in western Texas, during the mid-1970's. Oil is spewing from so many oil fields that it is unbelievable. This drought-ridden desert of a place is a misbegotten city with not much going for it.On February 15, 1976, one of the oil workers picks up 14 year old Gloria Ramirez at a drive through hamburger joint and takes her to a deserted oil rig where he beats and rapes her repeatedly. "If the young roughneck hadn't passed out before he sobered up enough to find his gun or get his hands around her throat, she would already be dead". Gloria, who will never use her given name from this day, manages to walk/crawl through the desert, cactus, drought ridden terrain until she gets to a farm house where a pregnant Mary Rose opens the door and lets Glory inside.This novel is brilliant. Each sentence contains a world. There are no rabbit trails and no fillers. This is a book of essence, poetic and literary, yet spot on with its narrative, storytelling and characterization. The novel is told primarily through four voices. Mary Rose is pregnant and already has one daughter. The impact of letting Glory into her home and believing the story of what happened to her will change her life forever. Debra Ann is a precocious child who has her ear to the ground and knows the ups and downs of Odessa. Her mother has run off and in many ways she is a feral child, but one with spunk, empathy, and intelligence to spare. Corrine is a curmudgeonly widow who is about as close to being a misanthrope as one can get. Sometimes she will will let Debra Ann get to her but mostly she drinks to stave off her grief and anger at the world. Gloria has decided that she will forevermore be called Glory, that she must leave Odessa in order to survive. This will have ramifications she never dreamed of.As many of the women in the United States glory in their newfound freedom by burning their bras, joining NOW, and reading Ms. Magazine, this is not what it's like in Odessa. Here the women are second class citizens, bred to obey their husbands, go to church, not make waves, and raise their children. If they get out of line, they are called out or even shunned. Odessa is not on the mailing list for a feminist wake-up call. Additionally, being hispanic in Odessa is a triple whammy. The racism is thick and evil like just-fried molasses on your tongue, burning up those who question the righteousness of this hate.As the four women's lives intersect in many ways, a narrative is created that will shake the reader's core. If this book was an earthquake, its magnitude will shake the book right out of your hands and into the next world. Do I believe that this is Ms. Wetmore's first novel? Yes. Do I think it's miraculous? Also, yes. A book like this comes around just a few times in your lifetime, if you're lucky. I feel privileged and blessed to have read this amazing novel.
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  • Shannon A
    January 1, 1970
    Set in the harsh land of the soft drawl, Valentine is a debut that is infused with the sublime hell that is the 1970's Texas oil boom. A story of mastering the land this is not; it is instead, a love letter to the characters and how they find a way to cope with the unease that comes with where they live. Wetmore's writing burns with an invisible hope. Beautiful and raw in its imagery, I found my mind floating back to moments in book while reading; the characters calling me from the pages long Set in the harsh land of the soft drawl, Valentine is a debut that is infused with the sublime hell that is the 1970's Texas oil boom. A story of mastering the land this is not; it is instead, a love letter to the characters and how they find a way to cope with the unease that comes with where they live. Wetmore's writing burns with an invisible hope. Beautiful and raw in its imagery, I found my mind floating back to moments in book while reading; the characters calling me from the pages long after I thought I was done reading.
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