Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter Reading Challenge Book Review #5: Outside Valentine by Liza Ward

Ok, now here's a book I really really liked. This is a fictional account of what was a true crime spree in Nebraska in the 1950's. Liza Ward is actually related to some of the victims. The writing was stunning, the story was gripping and the characters beautifully drawn. It's a "give your kids a bunch of DVD's, ignore the laundry, the kitchen and everything else" kind of book. I read it in two days.

I originally got the recommendation for this book from Bookmarks Magazine, which I love and highly respect. I couldn't find the issue, so I don't know what was so compelling about the review, but no one else I know has ever read this. It didn't turn into a great hand-seller like the Kite Runner or others. On Amazon (I don't trust those reviews much anyway) several people did not like the book. It seemed to me that these were people who read mostly in the crime genre, and expected this to be more like other true or fictional crime stories. It's true the book centers around the crime spree, but I wouldn't put it in the crime novel genre. It is more a character study of loneliness, desperation, dying marriages, teenage girls who feel unloved, and such.

The book is told from three different perspectives, and each chapter switches narrators. If you don't like that style, stay away from the book. It isn't long before you realize how the characters are tied together, and I think the alternate narrations gave wonderful perspective on the story.

Here's some quotes that show her beautiful prose and writing style:

On a dying marriage: I walked out of the room and closed the door behind me. In the living room, I leaned my elbows on the mantelpiece and tried to rub the grit out of my eyes. It would have been easy to go back to bed, to listen to Susan, to reassure her that I loved her, to go through all the motions that seemed to work for other people. Years ago at the altar, we had been asked by those in charge of the ceremony to accept each other in spite of our weaknesses, to love each other in sickness and in health, and at the time it had seemed normal to promise these things. I had had no sense of myself. She was somewhere to go.

On a teenage girl: My mother and I had the same blood. It should have been easy. But I had never understood any part of her, except the inexplicable force that had driven her to Nils. Danger. Wanting to be wanted enough to pull everything down. One step sparks an avalanche. Wanting attention from someone can lead you anywhere. Love could fling you out of orbit. There was no controlling how you landed.

And with that, my friends, I'm done with the From the Stacks Challenge!!


jay are said...

I've seen this book and seen it and not read it yet. Now I definitely will! Thanks. I have been definitely needing a page-turner.

Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

Congratulations on finishing the FTS challenge!! I've only finished one of my books so far but I'm chugging along.

I like the sounds of the book you reviewed here and the quotes you chose were really good!