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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Valentine, Elizabeth Wetmore: A Review

This is another title I found because of Twitter. Cover, title, and summary were interesting, but I tried not to read reviews before I went into this one. Sometimes, I like to go into a book without knowing what's going on, and Valentine was the perfect opportunity for that.

Told in alternating POVs, Valentine reads very much like a literary version of Crash. Fourteen year old Gloria is raped and drags herself out of the desert where she lands on the front porch of a very pregnant woman. Without giving too much away, the narrative weaves through the accounts of everyone touched by this horrible crime, almost like a chain reaction. The ripple introduces us to a wide cast of characters: the victim, the parents, the community, and within each of their lives is another story, a different set of problems, and Wetmore uses this unifying strand to examine how this act impacts everyone in various shades and degrees.

I liked some narrative voices more than others, and this is a dense read. Each character gives side stories, anecdotes, tangents, and back stories, so while the catalyst is propulsive, the story itself digs deep into character development rather than conflict. I loved the structure and thought it was poignant and clever to examine the rippling effect--and I didn't mind the numerous POVs--but some of the denser sections dragged a bit. This isn't the type of book you can read in a single sitting, but as a psychological study into the mental, emotional, physical, and tangential ramifications of rape in western Texas, it is fascinating and engrossing.

Overall, Valentine was a solid emotional read with a lot happening. I'd recommend this one to anyone who loved Crash or interwoven narratives (think This Is Us) and wants a literary drama with interesting characters.


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