Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

Publication Info: Expected publication date April 7, 2020 by Harper. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of Netgalley. Other editions will be available at time of publication.

Summary: Fourteen year old Gloria Ramírez wakes up bruised and battered on the ground in the middle of nowhere, west Texas. Her mind and body feel as torn and lost as her scattered bits of clothing. Near the truck she climbed into the night before, her rapist lies sleeping in a drunken stupor. She slowly gets to her feet and trudges through the oil patch toward a distant farmhouse, hoping to find help before the man wakes up.

The farmhouse, part of a failing cattle ranch, is currently occupied by a very pregnant Mary Rose and her school-aged daughter, Aimee Jo. Her husband is out trying to keep the cows alive on their hardscrabble plot of land. The only thing that keeps them from completely failing is their oil leases. But the oil is also a curse as it poisons the ground and the air, making it even harder to survive.

Finding battered Gloria on her front step is the last straw for Mary Rose. She is angered and frightened, fearing for her own safety out on the plains. She knows she must eventually testify in court: she alone stands between Gloria and justice. The gossips and the good old boy establishment blame the young Hispanic girl for her own rape. Mary Rose gathers her strength and moves into town with Aimee. There, we meet the remainder of the novel’s characters, all people struggling with the challenges of daily living.

Comments: Valentine is an remarkable debut novel. The meticulous word crafting, combined with clarity, detail and empathy, breathe life into the characters and the settings. I could feel the hot, dry sun on my skin and smell the sulfurous air, while my heart ached for Gloria. The secondary characters also come to life with distinct personalities, an incredible feat for a new novelist.

Valentine gives the reader an unsparing view into the lives of those who live on the borders and margins. Elizabeth Wetmore writes with deep compassion for her characters and unflinching honesty about their circumstances.

Very highly recommended for readers of Literary Fiction.

My Rating: 5 STARS +

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