RaveThe Texas ObserverElizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel, Valentine, is a revelation not for what it explores but how. Set in the 1970s Odessa oil boom, the book carefully builds complex authenticity throughout ... This novel is made for the #MeToo era. Told from the point of view of the women who usually take a back seat in historical Texas fiction, Valentine gives us what we didn’t know we were missing. Female anger, check. Female vengeance, check. An all-female car chase? Hell yes! ... The racism and sexism depicted in the novel are real, and there’s a feeling of satisfaction to see Valentine hold up a mirror to the prejudice that existed and exists in that part of the world (and so many others). That said, the novel’s moral stakes draw a stark line between good and evil. The reader is never asked to do any tough work, to look at herself or think about his own complicity ... In her debut, Wetmore is firing on all cylinders. She masterfully juggles the complex chronology of her structure—rich embedded flashbacks, surprising and satisfying flash-forwards. She describes the land with a gorgeous lyricism...and uses the concrete, physical world to develop her fascinating characters’ emotional lives ... Go out and buy this book. Make it the success it deserves to be.
PositiveTexas ObserverA troubled marriage, a missing child, a tormented investigator: These ingredients could’ve resulted in a book full of crime-novel cliches. But thankfully, Locke doubles down on one of the most interesting characters from the trilogy’s first volume ... It hardly seems possible, considering the complexity with which she rendered Lark, Texas’, musical and culinary culture in Bluebird, Bluebird, but place serves an even larger role in Heaven, My Home. Her atmospheric descriptions...would be an artfully creepy backdrop for any mystery, but the setting here is doing much more ... Locke isn’t exploring cringe-worthy micro-aggressions in this novel; the racism here is blatant and seemingly hard-wired into the fabric of life ... It isn’t easy to look at the world through Darren’s point of view, but it is powerful and devastatingly real ... the novel isn’t perfect—there are unnecessary repetitions, as though Locke doesn’t always trust readers to pick something up the first time ... Ultimately, Heaven, My Home is a novel about secrets ... It’s a thrilling mystery, yes, but it’s also a powerful meditation on what it means to be human in these frightening times.
PositiveThe Texas Monthly...as this deceptively simple novel progresses, it becomes clear that Crook is interested in more than a classic western pursuit narrative. Characters who initially appear as clichés—the noble Mexican, the earnest preacher—are revealed to have unexpected motives and backstories. Quests for revenge or profit or just plain Christian paternalism turn out to be flawed attempts at redemption and human connection ... What’s more difficult to understand, however, is Crook’s decision to narrate the book from Benjamin’s point-of-view, via a series of letters to a circuit judge after the Civil War. This has the unfortunate effect of slackening some of the tension ... A few elements of The Which Way Tree feel contrived or too on-the-nose...But those minor off notes aside, Crook’s slim, intimate novel illustrates how, at their best, historical westerns provide insight into human nature tested by the sort of extreme conditions that rarely crop up in contemporary American settings.