Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
February 15, 1976. Odessa, Texas.
Fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramirez arrives on Mary Rose Whitehead’s front porch. She has dragged her broken body across an oil field for help after being brutally raped and beaten by a young man the previous night.
Mary Rose rushes the girl inside the house with her own young daughter and stands on her porch with her gun, waiting for Gloria’s attacker whose truck is barreling down the ranch road toward her.
What follows is a heartbreaking look at Odessa’s version of justice as the town tries the case in their churches and bars while Mary Rose waits for her day in court on the witness stand.
The chapters alternate the points of view of several women and girls in the small town including Glory (the name Gloria chooses after the attack); Mary Rose; Corrine, Mary Rose’s neighbor who’s grieving the loss of her husband; and Debra Ann, the young girl who has attached herself to Corrine after her mother abruptly leaves.
Readers learn the inner lives of these characters; from their fierce determination to find a sense of self, their surprising tenderness toward each other, and their vulnerabilities that are highlighted by the frustrating lack of options in a small town only interested in taking care of their own (meaning: those that look and think like them).
I am never going to get over this book. Reading it, as a woman and as a mother, was raw and emotional. There are so many complicated truths of womanhood and motherhood shared in this novel that blurs the line that exists between strength and vulnerability.
I highly recommend Valentine to readers who love literary fiction full of strong characters and raw emotion.