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Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Literary fiction

Valentine

Debut
We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Elizabeth Wetmore, on your first book!

by Elizabeth Wetmore

Quick take

A brutal crime divides the strong-willed women of a Texas oil town in this profoundly feminist account of survival.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_HeavyRead

    Heavy read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unlikeable

    Unlikeable narrator

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_GraphicViolence

    Graphic violence

Illustrated icon, Icon_Challenging_Indicator

FYI

This novel is told through multiple points of view in a very literary style. Readers looking for a serious book are encouraged!

Why I love it

Jenna Bush Hager
Co-host, TODAY with Hoda & Jenna

I discovered Valentine when a friend, who is a bookseller by trade, recommended it to me. From the beginning, I was drawn to the book’s setting: a western corner of my home state of Texas. I also immediately felt my heritage in this novel, even glimpsing my grandma Jenna—a homemaker who never graduated from college but taught me every constellation in the sky—in the women of Valentine. But you don’t have to be from Texas to fall in love with this stunning debut.

The story is told through five dynamic female voices. They, along with the rest of their town of Odessa, are grappling with a tragic act of violence against a young Hispanic girl. There’s the indomitable (and grumpy!) Corinne Shepherd, who is mourning the loss of her beloved husband. There’s her precocious 10-year-old neighbor, Debra Ann, who forms an unlikely friendship after her mom leaves. Then there are the other characters who make up this flinty cast of women who must forge alliances and create boundaries to survive in this dusty oil town. They are complicated, complex; flawed yet striving to be better for each other.

I was hooked from the heart-pounding first scene. I finished it in a single sitting. In a time when we all need an escape, this beautiful story of justice, redemption, grace, and strength will arrest and transport you.

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Synopsis

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.

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Preview

Get an early look from the first pages of Valentine.

Member thoughts

All (12466)
All (12466)
Love (4662)
Like (5770)
Dislike (2034)
12657 ratings
  • 37% Love
  • 46% Like
  • 16% Dislike
  • Neenah, WI

    I don’t want to say that I loved this book because it’s not really the kind of story you love. It’s the kind of story that stays with you long after you’ve finished the last page. Highly recommend.

  • Chapel Hill, NC

    I wasn’t sure about this book due to how it starts. But this book is SO MUCH MORE than it’s traumatic beginning. I could not put it down. The character development and plot were novel and gripping.

  • New Canaan, CT

    What happens when a young mother has to respond in an instant to a dire situation. She quickly finds what she is made of, and everyone else in this dusty oil town. It’s not pretty but it’s also beaut.

  • Franklin, MA

    Sharp. Powerful. Brilliant. Wetmore’s first novel proves hard to beat. The story itself isn’t necessarily earthshaking, but it is beautiful and heartbreaking. It holds the reader from beginning to end

  • Strawberry, AR

    Really loved this book. I cried during every chapter. I became very attached to these characters and the author did a wonderful job of connecting them all. I couldn’t believe this was the author’s

  • Portsmouth, VA

    This was the best (and bleakest) book I’ve read in ages. I can’t believe it was a debut! The writing and setting were so incredibly vivid...I will be thinking about it for a long time. And that cover!

  • Greenwood Village, CO

    A very strong like. The fierce, challenging lives of these ‘feminist’ women is so captivating. Reads like a love story to the women of a town who are so much more than how they are viewed and treated.

  • Jenkintown , PA

    The last paragraph of this book will stay with me for quite some time. Occasionally, the dialogue was a little confusing-no quotation marks, but overall, an inspiring tale of the strength of women. ❤️

  • Turlock , CA

    This book is about a tough sunject so it is a tough read. But its shift in characters’ perspectives keeps the reader’s interest and provides welcome breaks in the action. You will be glad you read it.

  • Inglewood , CA

    I was shocked by how much I loved this book solely because it’s not a book genre I would usually be drawn to, but you just can’t help falling in love w/ the characters and the storyline of this book!

  • Austin, TX

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in recent years. The writing is beautiful, the stories of the women within the pages so moving. It’s like intense poetry. I can’t recommend this book enough.

  • Greenwich, NY

    This book was a perfect distraction right now. It drew me in right from the start. I was really rooting for the characters and thought the ending, which I didn’t see coming was very satisfying! ❤️

  • Brooklyn, NY

    Valentine captivated me from start to finish. Gorgeously written, honest, and emotional. I’m so glad to have been given so many different perspectives throughout the story - made me feel a part of it.

  • Beaverton, OR

    Very hard book to read because of subject matter. The setting is 70s, but sadly, this could describe a lot of today as well. Didn’t feel like it needed as many POVs as it had, but still a strong story

  • Fort Worth, TX

    Just to start, this book made me feel some kind of way. I *felt* what the women felt throughout the novel & continue to feel it. Incredibly powerful & well written, you can see West Texas in the 70’s.

  • Reedsville, PA

    This book was unlike anything I have read. Told entirely from different female perspectives, Wetmore’s incredible writing will draw you in and make you feel the injustices the characters have endured.

  • Bishop, GA

    This book captured my attention from the first page. I didn’t want to put it down and finished it in 2 days. I love reading about strong women and also love when a character is vulnerable, wise, real.

  • Diamond Bar, CA

    I couldn’t put this down. I was hooked from the first page. It is both beautiful and harsh. The characters are so real and representative of the many complex layers of the female brain and experience.

  • Rochester , WA

    Beautiful writing. Real characters. Raw emotions. This tackles so many different issues and made me feel both seen/not alone and sad as a woman knowing I’m not the only one. One of my top 10 this year

  • Salisbury, MD

    I love the character development in this book, the way the author so beautifully deacribes the setting, and the raw emotion it evokes. I didn’t love the ending. I wanted to hear more about Mary Rose

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