Bookworm Recommends: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
UK Publication Date: 31st March 2020
This ARC was provided by Fourth Estate (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Welcome to Texas the year is 1976 and Odessa stands on the brink of an oil boom where men will make and lose their fortunes, but what about the women?
Synopsis from Netgalley: Mercy is hard in a place like this. I wished him dead before I ever saw his face…
Mary Rose Whitehead isn’t looking for trouble – but when it shows up at her front door, she finds she can’t turn away.
Corinne Shepherd, newly widowed, wants nothing more than to mind her own business, and for everyone else to mind theirs. But when the town she has spent years rebelling against closes ranks she realises she is going to have to take a side.
Debra Ann is motherless and lonely and in need of a friend. But in a place like Odessa, Texas, choosing who to trust can be a dangerous game.
Gloria Ramírez, fourteen years old and out of her depth, survives the brutality of one man only to face the indifference and prejudices of many.
When justice is as slippery as oil, and kindness becomes a hazardous act, sometimes courage is all we have to keep us alive.
My Thoughts: From the first sentence I was transported to the barren and dusty Texas landscape, I could feel the relentless sun beating down on me and I could feel the fear of a young girl as she runs alone in this wilderness to escape a brutal attacker. The book opens with this scene and you might be lead to believe that the attack and the subsequent trial will dominate the narrative but you would be wrong. This is not one woman’s story it is every woman’s story.
Told from alternating viewpoints of various women who live in Odessa the narrative builds up an understanding of what life is like in small town Texas for the women who are born and grow up there as well as the outsiders who end up there following the men in their lives as they pursue their fortunes in the oil boom.
Life is hard for these women and what they have in common is the limited prospects they have for a better life.
“a story as common as dust on a windowpane.”
In Texas the young girls grow up early.
“If we were lucky, we made it to twelve before some man or boy, or well intentioned woman who just thought we ought to know the score, let us know why we were put on this earth.”
For these women the man they normally end up spending the rest of their lives with is their high school sweetheart.
“What kind of woman runs out on her husband and daughter? The kind who understands that the man who shares is bed is, and always will be, just the boy who got her pregnant.”
Even this running away from husband and family doesn’t bring freedom.
“All this wild, green beauty and still, always, a hole in her heart the size of a little girl’s fist.”
While some women are willing to condemn Glory for the attack on her because she is young, Mexican and went willing there are others who see how things really are.
“I got in his truck and went with him. Well hell, sugar, Tina says. That don’t mean Jack. That evil belongs to him, it’s got nothing to do with you.”
On top of all this we have the sad fact that there are many ways for a man to die in Texas but for the women there is one common cause.
“And the women, how do we lose them? Usually, it’s when one of the men kills them.”
While this could sound like a bleak book it is actually beautiful as we learn more about each woman and about what goes on beneath the surface we find reason to hope and we know that these are women who will take whatever life throws at them and rise above it. These women are warriors and survivors.
It may also sound like all men are bad but that is not the case within the book there are several examples of men who break the mould, who genuinely care about others and who will stand up for justice.
The women don’t come out of this whiter than white either there are enough of them who turn a blind eye to everyday instances of abuse, neglect and just good ole boys being boys behaviour that as a community they share a collective guilt.
I was stunned to learn this is a debut novel. The language really spoke to me and it has that extra magic that I can never define.
Who would like this? I would recommend this to everyone who enjoys good literature and tough stories told in an accessible way.
Have you read this one? What did you think?
I just started this book, and I can already tell it is going to be five stars for me. Reminds me a lot of Elizabeth Strout’s work (my favorite author).
Glad you are loving it like I did