Hey there, Valentine. His soft drawl marked him as not from here, but not that far away either, & his words took the ugly right out of the parking lot. Her mouth went dry as a stick of chalk. She had been standing next to the lone picnic table parked in the center of the drive-in, a shaky wooden hub in the middle of a few cars & trucks, doing what she always did on a Friday night—hanging around, drinking limeades & begging smokes, waiting for something to happen, which it never did, not in this piss-ant town.

Not until tonight.

The next morning, February 15, 1976, Gloria Ramirez wakes to find herself out in an oil patch, on the ground, the handsome young roughneck passed out in his pickup. Miles from home, she gathers articles of her scattered clothing, puts some of them on, & heads off in tìm kiếm of the nearest house, praying that he does not wake up before she can find her way to safety. Gloria has been raped & beaten to within an inch of her life. She walks across miles of rough country on bare, bloody feet, finding a house minutes before Dale Strickland, having come to, & realizing the need to cover his tracks, kicking up clouds of road dust in pursuit, arrives at that house & demands that Gloria be turned over to him. Thankfully, Mary Rose, very pregnant with her second, but in possession of a rifle named , that she has had since she was a teen, fends off the increasingly threatening Mister Strickland until the sheriff she had had her daughter, Aimee, call, arrives to keep things from getting any worse. Gloria will survive this day, a different person from who she was the day before. She is fourteen years old.


Elizabeth Wetmore – image from Baltimore Review

Gloria’s rape & the ensuing trial is where we begin in Elizabeth Wetmore’s lyrical, moving tapestry of a time & a place, Odessa, Texas, the late 1970s. It may not be that misery was born in Odessa, but it sure seems eager to stop by & visit as often as possible on its way to bigger game. () The focus is primarily, although not exclusively, on the females of this town, particularly four living on Larkspur Lane.

Mary Rose Whitehead stepped up to protect young Gloria in her hour of need, in heroic form. Her reward? Frequent calls, every day, of a threatening nature, enough to drive her to take a place in town, on Larkspur Lane, sparing her the vulnerable feeling of being left to fend for herself out near the oil patches while her husband was away at work.

Corinne Shepherd had been doing her best to drink & smoke herself to death following the departure of her husband, Potter, six weeks dead. She had already been forced to retire from a lifetime of teaching by mouthing off to the wrong person in the teachers’ lounge. I think we might imagine the general subject matter. But she gets drawn into the vortex created by Dale’s crime & Mary Rose’s willingness to man up & testify, ironic, as MR’s husband gives her crap for having opened her door to Gloria in the first place.

Debra Ann Pierce is ten, & the epitome of naïve optimism. This is the first Spring she has known since her mother, Ginny, left, promising, promising, promising to come back for her in a year, when she finally gets settled someplace else. Pop may not be really up to the task of raising his daughter alone. Debra Ann seems keen on connecting with Corinne, maybe looking for a substitute mother, or grandmother. Corinne’s impulse is to do the equivalent of waving a broom & yelling at her to get off her lawn, but DA persists. She is a great kid & you will love her. Particularly when she strikes up a heart-warming friendship with PFC Jesse Belden, late of the war, deaf in one ear, exploited by a relation in town, & living in a drainage pipe.

& we follow Glory, who sees herself as a new person after her experience, so alters her name. Her trials are not over with surviving the rape & beating. Will she testify? Will she be able to return to school? While she is recovering from her many injuries, & laying low, there is an incredibly beautiful scene in which Glory is befriended for a time by an unlikely person. Have your tissues ready.

There are more, Ginny Pierce, DA’s mother, fits the local dùng thử for parenthood. () She may love her kid, but not enough to live this godawful withering life any longer. She really, really, really intends to come back for DA. Karla Sibley is a 17-year-old single mother working hard to make a better life. Suzanne Ledbetter, is trying to do better for her family that her ancestry might have predicted.

Men are happy if you stay, but only on their terms. Women are meant to be at home, not in the work force. They are expected to tend the nest, making, & then taking care of babies. Appealing, no? Women in Odessa seem to either get burned out or burned up, dying to get out, or just dying. Most with the ability to dream want to leave, but some never get the chance.

A local woman’s burned body has been found, the fourth in the past two years. What a thing an oil boom is for a town, Corinne used to tell Potter bitterly, it brings in the very best sort of psychopath.

What is it like to be a woman, a female, growing up in a place where the land is sere & cold-hearted, the attitudes antediluvian, & where the opportunities for things to go bad far outweigh the chances for some actual self-realization, a place where good-old-boys tend to look after their own, regardless of their crimes, & crime victims are expected to shut up & somehow conclude that they had it coming. It is pretty tough to stand up when the local winds blow dark & hard & encourage one to dive for shelter. Yet, in this flat, miserable landscape there are glimmers of hope. Maybe girl, young woman can find a way to a better life. Maybe woman can make something better out of a marriage gone stale. Maybe some people will be able to communicate meaningfully with some other people to stave off the darkness of solitude. It is these flashes of light that give us, that give any of the characters here, hope.

Every August for the nearly thirty years she taught English, in an overheated classroom filled with farm boys & cheerleaders & roughneck wannabes reeking of aftershave & perfume, Corinne would spot the name of at least one misfit or dreamer on her fall roster. In a good year there might be two or three of them—the outcasts & weirdoes, the cellists & geniuses & acne ridden tuba players, the poets, the boys whose asthma precluded a high school football career & the girls who hadn’t learned to hide their smarts. Stories save lives, Corinne had said to those students. To the rest of them she said, I’ll wake you when it’s over.

DA & Glory both loved the stories their mothers told them. DA gets more from her friend, Jesse. It is one of the things that binds them.

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The novel alternates perspectives, Mary Rose’s being the only first-person tài khoản. Gloria’s horrific experience may be the

The issue, the problem, the reality of secrecy pervades the story. Almost everyone is hiding something now or has done some serious squirreling away of intel in the years before. &, of course, there are those who cover the truth in self-serving lies, even though the truth is barely secret at all. Hoping for better, for example, can be a heavy secret when resignation is the norm.

Panhandle Dust Storm – image from the author’s site

Odessa is a scary place. The weather is a large player here, the landscape oppressive, persistent, & hostile. Wetmore’s descriptions give aspiring writers something to aim for.

Tonight the wind blows like it’s got something to prove. [It] moves from window to window, a small animal sharpening its claws on the screens. Out at the ranch you hear this sound & you think possum or maybe armadillo. Here in town you might think of a squirrel or somebody’s cat. Lately the wind makes me think of animals that have not been here for a hundred years, panthers & wolves, or twisters that threaten to lift my children impossibly high in the air, only to fling them back to earth.

Small animals dash across the stage from time to time, almost always toting some smaller creature in their mouths. It is a red-in-tooth-and-claw place, & not just for the people. Danger also comes in the form of dark-intentioned telephone calls. Mary Rose is not the only woman who gets them.

You may be reminded in reading this of another excellent ensemble-cast look at an out of the way place, Bryn Chancellor’s beautifully written 2017 debut,

The only real gripe I have is that it will be such a long wait until March, 2020, when is scheduled for release. (really, not February?) But I assure you it will be worth the wait. Elizabeth Wetmore has written a masterful novel, one that will touch your heart, & impress you, whether you are a casual reader or literary-deconstruction sort. It is a beautifully written book that takes on real-world subjects, a great, great novel. This is one you will want to make all yours.

The harvest moon has come early this year, blood red & beautiful against the darkening sky. Try floating with your ears under the water, Tina had said to Glory as they drifted across the swimming pool that afternoon. Listen, she said, the sounds from the highway will blend together—a truck hauling pipeline or water, a flatbed turning onto the highway, the drill on a rig slowly winding itself up, they will all start to sound alike. You can tell yourself you’re hearing anything, Tina said, her large white arms floating next to her like buoys. & will you look at that sky? It’s a wonder, a damned wonder.

Review posted – July 26, 2019

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Publication date – March 31, 2020

=============================EXTRA STUFF

The author’s FB,

Wetmore teaches creative writing in the Chicago area. She has received multiple fellowships & held sundry residencies. Her writing has appeared in , & probably more. I admire & respect her for this, but as much for having once driven a cab.

By the author
—–Baltimore Review –
—–The Iowa Review –
Suzanne Ledbetter’s husband in the book) heading into the plant to deal with an accident, possible benzene spill. Good stuff.

Items of Interest
—–Anne Sexton’s
—–Ella Fitzgerald –

Not until tonight.The next morning, February 15, 1976, Gloria Ramirez wakes to find herself out in an oil patch, on the ground, the handsome young roughneck passed out in his pickup. Miles from home, she gathers articles of her scattered clothing, puts some of them on, & heads off in tìm kiếm of the nearest house, praying that he does not wake up before she can find her way to safety. Gloria has been raped & beaten to within an inch of her life. She walks across miles of rough country on bare, bloody feet, finding a house minutes before Dale Strickland, having come to, & realizing the need to cover his tracks, kicking up clouds of road dust in pursuit, arrives at that house & demands that Gloria be turned over to him. Thankfully, Mary Rose, very pregnant with her second, but in possession of a rifle named, that she has had since she was a teen, fends off the increasingly threatening Mister Strickland until the sheriff she had had her daughter, Aimee, call, arrives to keep things from getting any worse. Gloria will survive this day, a different person from who she was the day before. She is fourteen years old.- image from Baltimore ReviewGloria’s rape & the ensuing trial is where we begin in Elizabeth Wetmore’s lyrical, moving tapestry of a time & a place, Odessa, Texas, the late 1970s. It may not be that misery was born in Odessa, but it sure seems eager to stop by & visit as often as possible on its way to bigger game. () The focus is primarily, although not exclusively, on the females of this town, particularly four living on Larkspur Lane.stepped up to protect young Gloria in her hour of need, in heroic form. Her reward? Frequent calls, every day, of a threatening nature, enough to drive her to take a place in town, on Larkspur Lane, sparing her the vulnerable feeling of being left to fend for herself out near the oil patches while her husband was away at work.had been doing her best to drink & smoke herself to death following the departure of her husband, Potter, six weeks dead. She had already been forced to retire from a lifetime of teaching by mouthing off to the wrong person in the teachers’ lounge. I think we might imagine the general subject matter. But she gets drawn into the vortex created by Dale’s crime & Mary Rose’s willingness to man up & testify, ironic, as MR’s husband gives her crap for having opened her door to Gloria in the first place.is ten, & the epitome of naïve optimism. This is the first Spring she has known since her mother, Ginny, left, promising, promising, promising to come back for her in a year, when she finally gets settled someplace else. Pop may not be really up to the task of raising his daughter alone. Debra Ann seems keen on connecting with Corinne, maybe looking for a substitute mother, or grandmother. Corinne’s impulse is to do the equivalent of waving a broom & yelling at her to get off her lawn, but DA persists. She is a great kid & you will love her. Particularly when she strikes up a heart-warming friendship with, late of the war, deaf in one ear, exploited by a relation in town, & living in a drainage pipe.& we follow, who sees herself as a new person after her experience, so alters her name. Her trials are not over with surviving the rape & beating. Will she testify? Will she be able to return to school? While she is recovering from her many injuries, & laying low, there is an incredibly beautiful scene in which Glory is befriended for a time by an unlikely person. Have your tissues ready.There are more, Ginny Pierce, DA’s mother, fits the local dùng thử for parenthood. () She may love her kid, but not enough to live this godawful withering life any longer. She really, really, really intends to come back for DA. Karla Sibley is a 17-year-old single mother working hard to make a better life. Suzanne Ledbetter, is trying to do better for her family that her ancestry might have predicted.Men are happy if you stay, but only on their terms. Women are meant to be at home, not in the work force. They are expected to tend the nest, making, & then taking care of babies. Appealing, no? Women in Odessa seem to either get burned out or burned up, dying to get out, or just dying. Most with the ability to dream want to leave, but some never get the chance.What is it like to be a woman, a female, growing up in a place where the land is sere & cold-hearted, the attitudes antediluvian, & where the opportunities for things to go bad far outweigh the chances for some actual self-realization, a place where good-old-boys tend to look after their own, regardless of their crimes, & crime victims are expected to shut up & somehow conclude that they had it coming. It is pretty tough to stand up when the local winds blow dark & hard & encourage one to dive for shelter. Yet, in this flat, miserable landscape there are glimmers of hope. Maybegirl,young woman can find a way to a better life. Maybewoman can make something better out of a marriage gone stale. Maybe some people will be able to communicate meaningfully with some other people to stave off the darkness of solitude. It is these flashes of light that give us, that give any of the characters here, hope.DA & Glory both loved the stories their mothers told them. DA gets more from her friend, Jesse. It is one of the things that binds them.The novel alternates perspectives, Mary Rose’s being the only first-person tài khoản. Gloria’s horrific experience may be the MacGuffin of the novel, but Mary Rose is the character we spend the most time with, the one whose life remains in peril, even after Dale’s arrest, the one through whom other characters liên kết. Wetmore is impressively skilled at conveying backstory. We get a very good idea of how all her major characters wound up where they are in 1976, & find out where some of them are headed in their lives ahead. I confess to pining to learn the where-are-they-now about many more of them. Each chapter contains links to other characters’ story lines, reminding me of the backstitch, binding the individual tales together to make a stronger wholeThe issue, the problem, the reality ofpervades the story. Almost everyone is hiding something now or has done some serious squirreling away of intel in the years before. &, of course, there are those who cover the truth in self-serving lies, even though the truth is barely secret at all. Hoping for better, for example, can be a heavy secret when resignation is the norm.- image from the author’s siteOdessa is a scary place. The weather is a large player here, the landscape oppressive, persistent, & hostile. Wetmore’s descriptions give aspiring writers something to aim for.Small animals dash across the stage from time to time, almost always toting some smaller creature in their mouths. It is a red-in-tooth-and-claw place, & not just for the people. Danger also comes in the form of dark-intentioned telephone calls. Mary Rose is not the only woman who gets them.You may be reminded in reading this of another excellent ensemble-cast look at an out of the way place, Bryn Chancellor’s beautifully written 2017 debut, Sycamore , or maybe Jennifer Haigh’s Baker Towers , weaving together the lives of a community to tell a whole story. I have read only two books (The other being My Dark Vanessa ) so far slated for publication in 2020. (It now being July, 2019) As it happens, both of them are bloody spectacular, both deserving candidates for book of the year recognition. It promises to be an amazing year.The only real gripe I have is that it will be such a long wait until March, 2020, whenis scheduled for release. (really, not February?) But I assure you it will be worth the wait. Elizabeth Wetmore has written a masterful novel, one that will touch your heart, & impress you, whether you are a casual reader or literary-deconstruction sort. It is a beautifully written book that takes on real-world subjects, a great, great novel. This is oneyou will want to make all yours.Review posted – July 26, 2019Publication date – March 31, 2020=============================The author’s personal Ins , & GR pagesWetmore teaches creative writing in the Chicago area. She has received multiple fellowships & held sundry residencies. Her writing has appeared in, & probably more. I admire & respect her for this, but as much for having once driven a cab.—–Baltimore Review – Women & Horses (1976) – The story of Debra Ann’s mother leaving. It does not exactly match the chapter in which Ginny says goodbye to Debra Ann, but it is worth a look. It works as a top-notch stand-alone piece. It was published in 2013.—–The Iowa Review – Shelter in Place – Jon Ledbetter (Suzanne Ledbetter’s husband in the book) heading into the plant to deal with an accident, possible benzene spill. Good stuff.—–Anne Sexton’s Live or Die —–Ella Fitzgerald – My Funny Valentine

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