Author: Elizabeth Wetmore
Publisher: 4th Estate
Publication Date: 31st March 2020
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.
Valentine starts in a brutal manner, picking up in the immediate aftermath of an evil attack on Gloria Ramirez and what unfolds from there is a story of the women of Odessa, Texas in 1976. I think this is a perfect way to tell this story, through the eyes of only women in a time and place rife with sexism, judgement, violence and injustice. The attack on Gloria is the catalyst for much of what happens but there are so many different aspects to Valentine and the perspectives of the women it examines.
The first thing I have to say about this book is that it deals with the environment brilliantly. The setting is incredibly evocative, you can almost feel the blistering and oppressive heat and see the dust storms. Wetmore describes Odessa in such a brutal and uncompromising manner and I was glued to the story from beginning to end. All of the women that we meet in Valentine are fascinating and equally intriguing. It’s so interesting to discover how these women are all interlinked as we learn more and more about them. They are different ages and have different experiences but one thing that seems to connect them all is the struggle they face being women in such a harsh place. There are times that Valentine is desperately sad and grim but there is also so much strength in these women, both young and old which stops the book becoming too depressing or hopeless.
I think Valentine is a supremely well written and assured debut and I can’t believe this is Wetmore’s first book. It is incredibly visceral and heart-wrenching in the way it examines race, gender, class, violence and grief. I will be eagerly anticipating whatever Wetmore writes next.
I received this e-arc through Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion.