Saturday, January 10, 2009

Outside Valentine

Outside Valentine by Liza Ward was originally published in 2004. My hardcover copy has 301 pages. The story is told from the point of view of three different narrators who are all linked by the 1958 murder spree of Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in Nebraska. Apparently Liza Ward's grandparents were killed by the murderous pair, so she does have a closeness to the crimes. It should be noted for those thinking this is an accurate account of the Starkweather/Fugate murders, it isn't. This is Ward's first novel, and while the writing is exquisite in many places, I can't say with total conviction that she accomplishes what I felt she set out to do with the three narrators, Caril Ann in 1957-58, Puggy in 1962-63, and Lowell in 1991. In the end I didn't care about any of the characters and ultimately felt that the novel, however haunting and poignant the writing may be, fell short of what it could have been. In the end it was a sad, desolate story with no hope. Rating: 3


"In my dream, the snow was falling all across my old Nebraska. The minister had come to tell me about my parents. " opening sentences

"You see, I could no longer be trusted around beautiful things and my weakness was apparent. Suddenly everyone had realized I was missing something." pg. 3

"When I am half asleep and everything is dark, ghosts rise out of the prairie and swim across my eyes." pg.6

"I buried my face in the folds and inhaled, hoping for some secret knowledge, a whisper perhaps, from the world where Starkweather was going." pg. 17

"At one point we had had our dreams, and now it seemed so different, as if all the good parts were over." pg. 23

"I stayed up late, thinking about my son, wondering how much better he was faring without us. Sometimes, it seemed, leaving home was what saved a person. Home could be so complicated." pg. 29

"She settled down behind thousand-page novels, disappearing to places where her life became less real and my father and I were the illusion." pg. 37

"My mother seemed to me then like someone who could drag the whole world down around her, someone like Starkweather. She could swallow everyone and everything." pg. 49

"Everything was about what she needed. It took so much work to love her." pg. 52

"For all those years, I watched my every sentence, trying to convince them all that I had moved forward, that love for me wasn't connected to a terrible kind of pain." pg. 86

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