It is 1976 in Odessa, Texas as this book opens. Gloria, in defiance of her single-mother, has gotten into a pickup truck with a young man. She is 14. Something terrible happens and then…
It is morning and she lies still and quiet, waiting to make sure the man is not awake.
This is Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore.
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When finally she gets up…
“she does not go back for her shoes, when she thinks of them, or the rabbit fur jacket she was wearing last night when the young man pulled into the parking lot at the Sonic, his forearm hanging out the open window, sparse freckles and golden hair glistening beneath the drive-in’s fluorescent lights.”
She runs and takes shelter at a ranch house with Mary Rose and her young daughter, Aimee. Gloria has been brutally raped and in the fight with the man she is severely injured. Mary Rose is the wife of a rancher that is trying to raise cattle on their land amid the oil derricks and constant drought of Texas. She is also pregnant.
Mary Rose pulls an old rifle out to protect herself, her daughter, and Gloria because Dale Strickland (the man in the truck) comes up the driveway soon after Gloria’s arrival. The sheriff arrives before too much happens (Aimee has called the sheriff and ambulance service)- but here is where 1976 takes over. Later, even though Mary Rose saved Gloria the townspeople are stricken that she would help the girl. Gloria is Mexican.
Mary Rose and Aimee move from the ranch so they will feel safe. Phone calls and hatred are spewed in her direction constantly as the arrest and trial of Dale begins.
This is not a lawyer/trial book! Mary Rose moves to a street where she begins to meet all the women along the road and their children. The story is about them and the oppressive nature of the times and the men that expect them to stay home and take care of the kids. You will meet Corrine whose husband has died creating loneliness and grieving for her that has resulted in staying intoxicated more often than not.
There is Debra Ann, a ten-year-old, whose mom has left her and her dad. Debra Ann is on her own most of the time, doesn’t bathe, and befriends a homeless man. There is Ginny, Debra Ann’s mom, whose story of running away from her family is included. There is Suzanne who sells Avon and Tupperware to make extra money- socking away some slyly just in case she needs it one day. Her daughter Lauralee is friendly with Debra Ann sometimes.
And there is Karla.
The story of the women is wound throughout the story with Gloria, who wants to be called Glory, and the intense racist atmosphere of the community vs Mexicans.
I loved this book. My only criticism is that this author does not use quotation marks with conversation sentences and I find that can be confusing as a reader. The story was not what I expected, but the writing is superb. The passages and descriptions of the countryside and the lives of these women are mesmerizing. Four stars for this book!
I reviewed several amazing books for August! Be sure you check all of them:
- Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
- My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
- Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.