... a novel that serpentines around our expectations ... This is the story of their lives in a backwater oil town in the mid-1970s, which Wetmore seems to know with empathy so deep it aches ... If these chapters weren’t so carefully wrought and emotionally compelling, they might feel like mere distractions from the prosecution of Gloria’s attacker ... Several of these chapters are masterful short stories in their own right, but Wetmore knits them together with increasing intensity ... Wetmore has written something thrilling and thoughtful. Don’t let the launch of this novelist’s career be drowned out. Someday book clubs will meet again, and this would be a rousing choice.
Valentine is an angry novel, a blast of feminist outrage against a toxic culture that breeds racism and violence against women. The narrative hurtles forward with urgency of a thriller, and it emulates the darkest spy fiction by making it painfully apparent that the good guys are at least as likely as the bad guys to be punished. Elizabeth Wetmore’s mingled love and fury for her native West Texas electrifies her prose; despite its grim subject matter, her first novel is exhilarating to read, because the characters are so alive, the drama that engages them so compelling ... interconnected stories play out against the backdrop of a harsh, lonely land lovingly evoked by Wetmore ... She’s not painting a pretty picture here, but it’s palpably real, and her characters’ grit and resilience infuse the novel with a spirit of hard-won resolution ... a gripping, galvanizing tale from a strong new voice in American fiction.
... gripping and complex ... Wetmore evokes that landscape’s rugged isolation as well as the power that terrain holds over its inhabitants ... Each of these women is up against inequalities and injustices, and Wetmore treats their struggles with the gravitas they deserve. But so too is her narration lively and comic, interjecting her characters’ perspectives with humor that serves to underscore their anger and sadness ... Wetmore’s delight in language enlivens every page. Her similes would give Raymond Chandler a run for his money ... Wetmore delivers not merely a condemnation of one unusually bad man, but rather a scalding critique of a racist, patriarchal and capitalist system that excuses male rapaciousness and greed at the expense of women, immigrants and the planet itself ... With its deeply realized characters, moral intricacy, brilliant writing and a page-turning plot, Valentine rewards its readers’ generosity with innumerable good things in glorious abundance.
Elizabeth 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.
Valentine, Elizabeth Wetmore’s fierce and brilliant debut novel...evokes the physicality of the place with a visceral power that recalls Cormac McCarthy, and sets out its cultural ambience and mores with the ironic clarity of Larry McMurtry. This literary landscape has been defined by men as surely as the reality it represents. Wetmore sweeps them to the sidelines, defiantly and confidently claiming West Texas for the women and girls ... Corinne’s husband, Potter, is one of a handful of detailed and sympathetic male characters in the book ... Wetmore’s portrait of Corinne’s grief is so vivid, so sad and funny and real, it could carry the book on its own ... Valentine joins the best Texas novels ever written.
... harrowing, heartfelt ... As these women navigate what is decidedly a man’s world with feminine grace, Valentine becomes a testament to the resilience of the female spirit. Wetmore’s prose is both beautiful and bone-true, and this mature novel hardly feels like a debut. You’ll wish you had more time with each of these powerful women when it’s over.
With a voice uniquely her own, author Elizabeth Wetmore weaves together the threads of each desperate life into a compelling tragedy that cries out, unheard, for justice ... Forget hooking your reader in the first 10 pages; Valentine hooks by the second sentence ... a remarkable story, brilliantly told ... Wetmore is a native of west Texas, and it shows in a narrative that utilizes place and time as characters as surely as if she had named them ... though the pace is deliberate, the prose almost makes the reader wish he could linger with these characters—and get to know some of the lesser characters, mentioned only in passing, a little better ... Few novels cut to the conscience the way Valentine does, in a time and place where justice isn’t blind, but should be, and where injustice wears cowboy boots and jeans and has white skin. It’s a difficult story, as tragic as it is inevitable...Bravo!
... both dream and nightmare at the same time ... Wetmore applies this narrative technique effectively, and the story is made better by her exceptional use of language ... Amid the harshness, Wetmore also crafts amazing beauty in the book ... feels like a flower growing out of pavement ... becomes a difficult read because the inevitability of the outcomes is so depressingly predictable. Wetmore, like Harper Lee before her, has little interest in preserving the illusions of people who believe that justice and love will always prevail ... simply will not let a reader escape horrors no matter how many idyllic scenes and remembrances they stumble upon as they explore the book. It’s an incredibly moving and emotionally devastating piece of work that heralds great things from Wetmore. There’s nothing in the pages but the world we Texans have built. If the mirror makes you uncomfortable, well, change the person in it.
Odessa in 1976 is the kind of Texas oil town where the men work as hard as they drink, the women carry pistols in their pocketbooks, and tumbleweeds are what pass for local greenery ... Elizabeth Wetmore's sunbaked prose can read more like a writer's rich imagination than real life, but as the story goes on it becomes a monument to a sort of singular grace, and true grit
The grim and oppressive landscape evokes the characters’ hopeless feelings, but even in this environment there is still hope. Drawing comparisons to Barbara Kingsolver and Wallace Stegner, Wetmore writes with an evidently innate wisdom about the human spirit. With deep introspection, she expertly unravels the complexities between men, women, and the land they inhabit. Achingly powerful, this story will resonate with readers long after having finished it.
Wetmore poetically weaves the landscape of Odessa and the internal lives of her characters, whose presence remains vivid after the last page is turned. This moving portrait of West Texas oil country evokes the work of Larry McMurtry and John Sayles with strong, memorable female voices.