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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

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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

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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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Valentine.
Valentine

Gloria

Sunday morning begins out here in the oil patch, a few minutes before dawn, with a young roughneck stretched out and sleeping hard in his pickup truck. Shoulders pressed against the driver’s side door, boots propped up on the dashboard, he wears his cowboy hat pulled down far enough that the girl sitting outside on the dusty ground can see only his pale jaw. Freckled and nearly hairless, it is a face that will never need a daily shave, no matter how old he gets, but she is hoping he dies young.

Gloria Rami?rez holds herself perfectly still, she is a downed mesquite branch, a half-buried stone, and she imagines him facedown in the dust, lips and cheeks scoured by sand, his thirst relieved only by the blood in his mouth. When he startles and shifts roughly against the truck door, she holds her breath and watches his jaw clench, the muscle working bone against bone. The sight of him is a torment and she wishes again that his death will come soon, that it will be vicious and lonely, with nobody to grieve for him.

The sky turns purple in the east, then blue-black, then old-bucket slate. In a few minutes it will be stained orange and red, and if she looks, Gloria will see the land stretched tight beneath the sky, brown stitched to blue, same as always. It is a sky without end, and the best thing about West Texas, when you can remember to look at it. She will miss it when she goes. Because she can’t stay here, not after this.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (14,284)

  • Syjil A.

    Claymont, DE

    ‘Valentine’ starts with a bang and then slows down… it isn’t until the last third that it goes from decent to beautifully powerful. Good commentary on gender and race, just wish there was more drama.

  • Ann A.

    Sugar Land , TX

    Valentine grabbed my attention and stole my heart right from the start! This is a book about strong West Texas Women Y’all. The author nailed every page turning description and each stoic character ❤️

  • Marie E.

    Bean Station, TN

    the greatest lesson was this: nothing causes more suffering than vengeance. And Victor has no taste for it, not even as the sole witness to his niece’s suffering.” A heartbreaking book I’m glad I read

  • Staci D.

    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.

  • Chantelle F.

    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.

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