VALENTINE – Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine: A Novel

I’ve read Caleb Pirtle’s  books and blogs set in Texas—enough to know that the climate is harsh and drilling for oil even harsher,

In VALENTINE, by Elizabeth Wetmore, harsh morphs into downright grim. The relentless heat seeps out of every page urging you, the reader, to turn on the air conditioner. The violence and the apparent lack of caring, like a punch to the gut, leave you breathless. Yet, you keep turning the pages. You have to know.

The widow, the young Mexican girl, the pregnant mother and her daughter, the young girl trying to take care of herself and her father—each presenting the oil patch from their point of view with their fear and strength and the often deeply buried tenderness making unexpected appearances.


Mercy is hard in a place like this….

It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field – an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class, and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the listener’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.

The Cowboy

He decides to wear his western clothes for the trip to Mali and France. He scrapes the manure off the boots and polishes them to a battered shine, spot cleans the hat and has it reshaped, checks the jeans for tears to be mended, buys a new western  jacket, sportcoat style, and a couple of new shirts.

First stop – Mali.

“Texas!” the kids call out.

“No, Canada,” he says.

“Texas!” They insist and there is no changing their minds.

“Marlboro Man,” they screech with delight.

“No, Canada,” he says, but Marlboro Man he remains.

Who knew westerns were so popular in the sub sahara?

He goes to Timbouctou and receives the same warm reception. Here he demonstrates riding a horse along with sound effects. The boys gathered around giggle and roll on the sand, then jump up and demonstrate camel ridin,g again with sound effects. It’s his turn to laugh.

Second stop – Avignon.

“Cowboy,” the children scream. A grade six school group from Spain, all of them speaking perfect French. “Cowboy,” they holler and the cameras are out and up close. There must be 6,000 pictures of the cowboy’s belt buckle and little else on the kids’ cameras.

Third stop – Paris.

Young men see his hat and look immediately at his feet. The battered boots invariably receive an appreciative and approving nod.

But it’s the elderly, immaculately dressed and coiffed French women, who provide the greatest delight.

They look up, bat their eyes, and say flirtatiously, “Quel beau chapeau, monsieur.”

He grins, doffs his hat, and bows slightly. His wife groans and does her best to ignore it all.