This was the first book in a while that my book club didn’t really agree on. We were split down the middle, actually. (I’m glad we’re still doing book club by Zoom but I miss hanging out with my people in person, and I miss all the yummy food. I know everyone misses everyone and everything right now, but I wanted to say it anyway.) If you can’t tell by my rating, I was more on the dislike side of it, though I didn’t hate it. It didn’t really do much for me either. I’ll try to elaborate below, but basically everything I’m going to say boils down to “not to my taste.”
Valentine takes place in West Texas in the late 1970s, so it’s historical fiction. The blurb is sort of misleading. I didn’t have many expectations going in, but the inciting incident is the rape of a fourteen year old girl named Gloria Ramirez, although the book is more about the white women in her orbit than it is her, in my opinion. Gloria does have a satisfying arc, more than the other characters get, even if there is less of her presence, but I wanted more of her, and less of the others. Mostly it felt like a portrait of a place and time, through the eyes of women, and issues of sexism and racism were highly prevalent. I was engaged enough with it to become enraged at several points during the book, particularly the trial scene. And I ended up caring for most of the characters.
But mostly the book read to me like this (and I did the audio, for context): WOE WOE rape sadness death WOE children mothers church ladies WOE WOE WOE WOE abandoned children teenage mothers oil oil oil men men casseroles tupperware rape pregnancy depression WOE.
I don’t like reading books that make me feel like that. I don’t mind depressing subjects, or tough subjects, I really don’t! But I do need more balance in authorial voice than this book provided. I needed more humor, more of an arc, more something. Not a bust, and different tastes will and have enjoyed this more than I did, but not really for me, either.
[2.5 stars, rounded up]
CBR Bingo: Debut