Cover Image: Valentine

Valentine

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Member Reviews

Thank you so much for the opportunity to read and review this book. While this title is no longer within the realm of my current reading interests I appreciate the opportunity in receiving an ARC.
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The lyrical yet stark writing immediately set this book apart. From the first paragraph onwards I was captivated by the lives of these disparate yet connected women. The tough no holds barred writing is perfect for this tough town and even tougher women.
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This book will probably be my favorite that I read all year. Starting off kinda slow, 'Valentine' is the story of the small community's response to the violent assault of fourteen year-old Gloria Ramírez. This is probably one of the best portrayal of women I have ever read. Every single one felt authentic and real, and I think a huge reason for that is their experiences and opinions are so real feeing. You get a first hand look into why they think and behave the way they do. And even in the situations where you don't agree with them, you still 100% understand why they are the way they are, and how the people and community behind them contribute to their being. And I love that; it doesn't have women who hold unfavorable opinions just for the sake (or 'need') of it, or the function of making them a one dimensional "not like those women" type villain. It's one of the most authentic and intimate portrayal of womanhood I have ever read. All of the points of view serve a purpose, despite not feeling so in the beginning, and it was truly great. And I absolutely love that it didn't turn into a 'this will make Gloria a stronger/better person' thing. It recognized that this is a thing that happened to her, but it does not define her, and she doesn't have to build herself around it in order to move forward. I think that narratives that chose that path definitely have a place, but I love how refreshing it felt to have a story like this out there. I would highly recommend!!
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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This is a spare, sparse novel reminiscent of the land itself, which seems almost a character in the book.  The prose is at times heartbreaking and beautiful in its imagery and grace.  This is a novel that will be loved by those who truly appreciate 'classic literature' and I suspect it will stand the test of time as a debut novel of great importance, with shades of Carson McCullers and Cormac McCarthy.  A testament to how one crime can affect a whole town, and how seemingly small things can lead to great joy and great disruption to oneself and others.  Truly a masterpiece from a writing standpoint.
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In this outstanding debut novel, Chicago-based author Elizabeth Wetmore explores the lives of women in the dusty, 1970s landscape of Odessa, Texas. A brutal act of sexual violence sets the story in motion and alternates between several of Odessa's women, of different ages and backgrounds. The land here is severe and hard for the oil men, but even harder for the town's women who can see little hope for a better life. Wetmore finds moments of humor, hope and grace in each character, perfectly capturing the unique heartbreak of this time and place. Fans of Barbara Kingsolver, Larry McMurtry or even Daniel Woodrell's rural noir (such as Winter's Bone) will enjoy this unforgettable read.
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Odessa, Texas, February 15, 1976, 14 year old girl is found barely alive after an attack at a nearby oil field as an oil boom is under way.

It’s the classic tale of finding justice when you are the victim.  It’s also so timely as what we are seeing in the news today, cases of all types being tried before they ever reach a court of law.

Although brutal, you do leave with hope.
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Somethings just don't change. 2020 and we're still dealing with the same old issues: racism, violence, etc.  It's a difficult book to read, but well worth it. It's a good story. Well worth reading. There's actually time left in summer to consider it for a summer read.
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This story about three women in Texas oil country shows how they each cope with their circumstances.  It is also is about being there for others, giving a person a chance.
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A raw, poignant, and powerful historical fiction about a group of interconnected females navigating life, sexism, and violence in 1976 oil-booming west Texas.  This is a fantastic debut by author Elizabeth Wetmore.  Her atmospheric writing is exquisite and will drop you right in the middle of a hot, dusty Odessa. Told from multiple points of view, your heart will go out to each female character. If you've never been to Texas before, this is the quickest ticket there!
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This book was absolutely amazing.  I loved all the women in the story-strong women who stood up for themselves.  I would highly recommend reading this book!
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This book put my emotions through the wringer. It was intense and raw and compelling. 
I enjoyed the multiple narrators and how each person added their perspectives to the overall story. Although I wish we’d have heard more from Glory. The first third to half of the book is more riveting than the first. 
4.5/5
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From debut author Elizabeth Wetmore comes VALENTINE, a fierce and unflinching chronicle of a night of unspeakable violence and its effect on the women of Odessa, Texas, in 1976, as this small town stands on the brink of the next great oil boom.

The story begins with Gloria Ramirez, a 14-year-old who finds herself awake in the desert, carefully watching the unconscious body of the young man who has just raped and beaten her on Valentine’s Day. Wetmore does not hold back in recounting the brutalities faced by Gloria, but goes a step further by describing the intense emotional pain she feels. She gets “the body” --- her own, but she can no longer claim ownership of it --- up and moving and walks three miles, barefoot, to the nearest home, praying for safety. If she doesn’t, she knows the man will kill her.

From there, we meet Mary Rose Whitehead, a young mother who cares for her daughter and dreams of her unborn child while her husband works in the fields. When she hears a knock at the door as she and her daughter listen to a church sermon on the radio, nothing can prepare her for the battered, frightened girl she finds on the porch. Torn between wanting to protect any young girl and wanting to protect only her own, Mary Rose deliberates for just a second too long before letting a crying, thirsty Gloria into her home. Her hesitance draws the eye of Dale Strickland, who has just arrived in his pickup truck looking for his “girlfriend,” a feisty Mexican --- because you know how those gals are --- who he claims stormed off after a quarrel. But Mary Rose knows the truth, and when she tells her daughter to call the sheriff and hand her a gun, she knows exactly the effect it will have on her life.

Jumping ahead a bit, we learn that Strickland has been arrested for his crime. The trial has not yet begun, but Gloria has been tried in the court of public opinion. Though they are all churchgoing husbands, fathers and sons, the men --- and even some of the women --- of Odessa have labeled her guilty. Guilty of going off with a strange man, guilty of having brown skin, and, perhaps most of all, guilty of being a woman. But it is not only Gloria who is being disparaged by her fellow citizens; Mary Rose is considered a race traitor for siding with Gloria, and even her own husband has turned his back on her for defending the little Mexican girl. The townsfolk are merciless, throwing around bigoted and prejudiced statements and sentences with little care for the fact that Gloria is just a girl --- a girl who very easily could be one of their own. And, as Wetmore shows us, is far more like the men’s own mothers, sisters, wives and daughters than any of them will ever realize.

From this point on, Wetmore alternates between the perspectives of several women in town --- from Gloria and Mary Rose to crotchety old Corrine Shepard and the rest of her female neighbors on Larkspur Lane, and even Debra Ann Pierce, a young girl who has been left motherless and traverses Odessa searching for meaning. Through their eyes, we see the ways that the promise of oil (black gold) has drawn countless men to the small town, and how the ripples of violence and cruelty caused by them have forever made their mark upon the land and its women.

Corrine and Debra Ann drive much of the narrative with their heartbreaking stories that are fueled not by male violence or disregard, but rather by the unbearable pressures put upon women. Even though they have been largely untouched by the terror of Odessa, Wetmore reminds us that violence can come in many forms, including unrealistic expectations, poverty and a lack of opportunities. It is Mary Rose with whom we spend the most time, but with her serving as a link between Gloria and the other women, we come to know the backstory and reflections of each and every female inhabitant of Odessa, and we learn one thing: the men cannot be trusted.

The town of Odessa acts as a character in itself, with Wetmore so successfully transporting her readers to the desert and oil fields that I swore I could smell the dirt and sulfur in the air as I read. By weaving together so many histories and laying them against a deeply compelling contemporary story and legal trial, she provides the entire history and personality of the town in just over 300 pages. Let us not forget: Odessa is a scary place, as full of potential for success (or at least black gold) as it is opportunity for violence. Although it is painful and harsh, Wetmore never once allows us to forget that the two are intricately and indivisibly tied to one another. She is a careful writer who wastes no words, but still she manages to produce some of the most cohesive and shocking descriptions that I have ever read.

VALENTINE is a slow-burn novel that is nearly entirely character-driven. Wetmore is skilled at conveying each woman’s backstory and finding the sometimes surprising links between them all. Though the book is predominantly about violence and male privilege, she also explores the deepest feelings and fears of womanhood: from finding one’s identity in a career, to wanting more sex, and even the conflicting emotions of motherhood. What is remarkable is not that she has focused solely on the women of Odessa, but that she finds --- so easily, it seems --- the invisible threads that unite them as victims, warriors and victors.

Endlessly haunting and unforgettable, VALENTINE is an illuminating celebration of the strengths and vulnerabilities of women, and a reminder that the truth will keep us alive, even when there are systems in place to take it from us.
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I knew right off the bat from reading this book that I did not 100% love it. It’s strange because this book received rave reviews on various websites and social media outlets. I think I had very high expectations for it but when it came right down to it, I just didn’t love the book as much as I wanted to. Let’s start with the story. I actually liked what the story was about, it brought some real and very hard issues that the women faced during this period of time in West Texas. The setting of the book was absolutely engrossing. I loved the way the backdrop was described and it really felt like you were right there yourself (check out the book cover), it was a visually stimulating setting for the story which made me like the book a bit more. Although, I am always a sucker for southern settings in books, there’s such warmth, character and charm when it comes to stories based in the southern states of America, and this one was no different. I actually drove through similar areas in Western Texas during my road trip last year and it was nice to be reminded of these memorable settings. The story itself was a gripping read, but somewhere along the line, I began to lose interest, and I think it’s because I felt a little detached from the characters and the story itself. It was a strange feeling. I didn’t finish the book feeling like I read a riveting story even though everything about the book is completely what I would normally love. I also felt that the book had too many characters, if it was only focused on Mary-Rose and Gloria, I think I would have connected with the story line a little more. I don’t think the rest of the characters added much more to the story and I felt quite bored reading their perspectives. You sort of lost the plot of the book through them. 

This being said, I did love the actual premise of the book and the fact that Elizabeth Wetmore brought up these issues of race, women’s inequality, violence, sexism, and women’s vulnerability. She hit the nail on the head there with those issues, and the setting of the book was stellar. But beyond that, I was quite bored. I wished it had less characters and that the characters didn’t overshadow Gloria’s story. It’s a good story but for me, it just didn’t crack through the surface and into my heart strings. It’s one of those stories that I would forget about in a year. Shame, because I loved the idea of the plot and the writing style from the author. I would still describe this book as Raw, Authentic, Beautiful and Poignant.
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This magnificent story is sure to engage every sense you have and, most certainly, your heart.  This debut novel is extremely well-written in the sense that, through the descriptions, you can virtually see, hear, smell, feel, and even taste all that must have been West Texas and the oilfields of the 1970's.  Told through alternating and revolving point of views, the story tells of the events after the rape of a 14 year old girl named Gloria (Glory) and unfolds to fill in any blank spaces by hearing the voices of the various characters as they narrate each chapter.  This story is not dialogue heavy, but narrated in a manner which allows the plot to fully unfold.  

Women represented in this story are not only strong and resilient but highly courageous and "real."  Hats off to Wetmore for the magnificent characterization she provided in fully bringing these women to life.  This story, though it centers around a rape, which is a very violent offense, is not overly violent or excessively descriptive in a sexual manner.  There is a bit of language, but it is not a major writer's craft and is used in an appropriate and effective way to further develop the plot and characters.  

I highly recommend this visit to a time gone by and learning what we can from past events that continue to haunt and plague us in modern times.  This is an engaging, very dynamic read and it is not to be missed!
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The author is great at capturing the different voices of each of her characters. The circumstances were realistic and interesting in the different perspectives.
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I enjoyed this book and the writing is undoubtedly beautiful. I enjoyed the strong female characters and alternating points of view. Some characters left me wanting more while others moved to slowly for me. I feel like this is a book that I will come back to and the story and setting will stay with me. That being said, parts of this moved too slowly for me and I found myself drifting too often.
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Wow. Wow. Wow. Everyone should read this book. Set in West Texas in the 1970s, it tells the story of the women living there, often in opposition to the men who surrounded them. A difficult read at times, but exhilarating nonetheless.
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Valentine is a story about abuse that rocks a town to its core. Elizabeth Wetmore’s beautiful prose transported me to a small town in West Texas. The women in this novel captivated me, I found their stories compelling, spare and austere like the land they live on.
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It's 1976 in Odessa, TX just at the beginning of the oil boom. Gloria Ramirez is 14 and defiant of her mother wishes to stay home and study. Instead she gets into Dale Strickland's truck. Strickland isn't much older than Gloria. Mary Rose Whitehead awakens the next morning finding Gloria on her porch beaten and raped. What follows and ripples through the community illustrates the rampant racism and sexism of the region and time period. It's infuriating that what indicative of the time, but more infuriating to think it could still happen today.
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