Valentine: A Novel

I’ve read Caleb Pirtle’s  books and blogs set in Texas—enough to know that the climate is harsh and drilling for oil even harsher,

In VALENTINE, by Elizabeth Wetmore, harsh morphs into downright grim. The relentless heat seeps out of every page urging you, the reader, to turn on the air conditioner. The violence and the apparent lack of caring, like a punch to the gut, leave you breathless. Yet, you keep turning the pages. You have to know.

The widow, the young Mexican girl, the pregnant mother and her daughter, the young girl trying to take care of herself and her father—each presenting the oil patch from their point of view with their fear and strength and the often deeply buried tenderness making unexpected appearances.


Mercy is hard in a place like this….

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, 14-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.

Valentine 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 listener’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.

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