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Valentine Written With The Haunting Emotional Power Of Elizabeth Strout And Barbara Kingsolver, An Astonishing Debut Novel That Explores The Lingering Effects Of A Brutal Crime On The Women Of One Small Texas Oil Town In The SMercy Is Hard In A Place Like ThisIt S February , 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 FollowIn The Early Hours Of The Morning After Valentine S Day, Fourteen Year Old Gloria Ram Rez 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 ConsequencesValentine 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 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 Ram rez 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. An astonishingly unforgettable debut from the talented Elizabeth Wet, 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 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 Wet 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 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.Wet 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 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 Wet 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 Wet turns her attention to next and writes Highly recommended Many thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC. I m still basking with profound aw Review to come.Update My little book review Valentine , by Elizabeth Wet 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 Wet 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 Wet 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 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 Wet image from Balti ReviewGloria s rape and the ensuing trial is where we begin in Elizabeth Wet 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 na ve 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 , 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 sopho. 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 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 Wet 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 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.Odessa is a scary place The weather is a large player here, the landscape oppressive, persistent, and hostile Wet 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, Syca, 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 April, 2020, when Valentine is scheduled for release really, not February But I assure you it will be worth the wait Elizabeth Wet 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 FB page but really, I saw no activity on it since April, 2019 I expect that as the pub date nears Wet will be getting her social media presence firmed up Wet 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, Balti Review, and probably I admire and respect her for this, but as much for having once driven a cab By the author Balti 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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