Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

Set in the '70s at Odessa Texas, the story begins with Gloria Ramirez, who is just fourteen years old, observing closely of a young cowboy who is sleeping in his truck. She is waiting for the right time to run away before he sobers up. As the sun rises, offering her more brightness and hope, she sees the nearest place that she can go to is the farmhouse. She recalls how she encountered the young man on the night before at Sonic, introduced himself as Dale Strickland. When she finally walks away from him, she will never again call herself by the name she was given. From now on, she will call herself Glory.

Mary Rose is trying to imagine how Dale reacts when he wakes up after spending a night raping a fourteen-year-old girl. Mary Rose was the first person to see Gloria alive. She will be giving her testimony in the court when August comes. The story leads to the details of that day when Gloria arrives at her front door seeking refuge. It also reveals Mary Rose's challenging condition as a pregnant woman who is living too far away from the town. The best part of Mary Rose's story ends with her courageous confrontation with Dale, who drives to her farmhouse, threatening her to give Gloria to him.

I'll keep the summary short and leave you to find out the details. However, other characters that appear in the story are worth to be mentioned here to give you an insight into the storyline.

Across the street of Mary Rose's house, Corrine is a new widow who is still in the grief of her husband's death. She and her husband were in their car when they saw Gloria climbed into Dale's truck. Two days later, they learned the news about the raping case.

Debra Ann is a ten-year-old girl who has been stalking a twenty-two years old man Jesse who was an ex-soldier. Due to the loneliness, after her mother leaves the family, she finds Jesse is an interesting person. They become friends, and she frequently brings the necessities that he requested.

Ginny is Debra Ann's mother. She leaves her family with the five hundred dollars from their joint account and a road atlas. Her story reveals the sharing of the same fate as Mary Rose, who got pregnant when they were in teenage, and some life advice that she remembers given by her grandmother.

I really liked that the author includes the story of Gloria or Glory after the incident. The trauma that she experienced and how she tries to gather her courage to go to a swimming pool and talk to a stranger. And it feels the world so much better when the woman offers a random act of kindness that brings hope to Glory for her future.

Reading this book is like sitting on a rocking chair at the front porch with a cup of tea while enjoying this piece of refined work. I never read such a sophisticated style of telling a rural crime story. Besides revealing the lives of six different women and girls from different generations, the story also touches on religious views, perception about migrants, problems faced by women and minorities, social issues, and injustices in a small Texas town. The Ladies Guild is the best example to summarise the prejudice and conservative mind in a rural place about immigrants. A group of religious people who accesses other's values and being judgmental but never see any defects of themselves.

Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore.

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