VALENTINE by Elizabeth Wetmore: A Review

A wonderful debut novel

I read about this book, just out this year, in a review in The Houston Chronicle. What made me want to read it was it was set in Odessa, Texas, where my neighbor grew up. All I remember from what she told me about the town was about the terrible, red, dust storms. The Odessa described in this novel as a 1976 oil-boom town is prosperous, and sometimes violent. Men had money, nothing to do, and were heavy drinkers. Women were homebound with many children, dependent on each other for friendship and strength.

When fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramirez appears, bloody and battered, on Mary Rose Whitehead’s front porch, asking for a glass of water and calling out for her mother, the “heartbreaking and thrilling” story begins. And, with “firepower and skill,” Wetmore narrates the story of prejudice and injustice with”breathtaking prose.”

“Sunday morning begins out here in the oil patch, a few minutes before dawn, with a young roughneck stretched out and sleeping hard in his pickup truck. Shoulders pressed against the driver’s side door, boots propped up on the dashboard, he wears his cowboy hat pulled down far enough that the girl sitting outside on the dusty ground can see only his pale jaw.Freckled and hairless, it is a face that will never need a daily shave, no matter how old he gets, but she is hoping he dies young.”

Giving alternating povs from the various characters of the sub-plots, the author weaves her strands of violence, race, class, and religion” into a tale that is definitely NOT your typical “Valentine’s-Day-read” despite the title.

Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

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