At a Glance
Author: Elizabeth Wetmore
Published: March 31, 2020 by Harper Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 3.86 out of 5
My Rating: ★★★★★
This was one of my most anticipated books from March. I love reading books with Texas settings, as I don’t feel there are very many. I tried everything to get an advanced copy but then Book of the Month had it as an April pick and I knew I needed it. This book is not an easy read. Told through an endless number of narrators, it deals with violence, race, class, and women’s struggles in a small town in the 1970’s.
I enjoy multiple POV books and based on some other reviews I thought I might have a hard time with so many narrators, there are at least 6 I can remember off the top of my head. But every single narrator adds an incredible layer of depth and strength throughout the book, that without so many narrators I don’t think the story would have been as strong. Each of these narrators, all women, add an extra level of strength to the story by discussing their current struggles, grief, and lives. IT’s a good reminder that we often don’t know what others are working through, and something just a small token of affection can be enough.
While the book’s central focus is on the rape and assault of 14 year old Mexican girl Gloria (Glory), we really only encounter Gloria three times in the book. The first chapters, one chapter mid-way through the book, and the last chapter. I would have liked to have read her POV a bit more, but it allowed me to become invested in the other women’s stories more. However, each of the stories we encounter all string from the girl’s attack. It was such an interesting way to gain a really clear picture of the events.
Past the Glory’s assault though, Wetmore has given us a pretty clear picture of what it was like for women during this time. Pregnant before graduating high school, multiple kids, men in the oil field, men hitting their wives, and women with really no chance of any sort of change. The violence against women in the area was high and many if not all of the women were stuck in this pattern. Life was stagnant for them and good times were relative on the success of the oil fields. I have so many emotions raging through me about the injustice against these women.
In addition to the injustices against women, Wetmore also tackles the conversation of race. In particular against Mexicans and Hispanics at the time. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the prejudice as I live in San Antonio, TX and am half Hispanic; but even from stories from my mom, I know they existed. To see them so bluntly laid out in this book though is appalling. It’s amazing to think that the 70’s were over 40 years ago and to even imagine the changes that have and haven’t taken place is astounding.
Wetmore has penned a beautiful story of class, race, and women. I know for some the multiple narrators will be difficult to handle, but you should really give this book a chance. It’s compelling and chilling and I highly recommend.
This book is out now, get it HERE!
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About the Author
Elizabeth Wetmore is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Epoch, Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, Baltimore Review, Crab Orchard Review, Iowa Review, and other literary journals. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and two fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council.
Before devoting herself to writing, Elizabeth variously tended bar, waited tables, taught English, drove a cab (for a minute!), temped, and painted silos and cooling towers at a petrochemical plant. For a time, she lived in a one-room cabin in the woods outside of Flagstaff, Arizona while she worked as a classical music announcer. A native of West Texas, she lives and works in Chicago. VALENTINE is her first novel.
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