There is also a recognition of the strength given by the habit of understatement in an unforgiving world. “You might surprise yourself,” a husband near death says, “after I’m gone.” “I doubt that very seriously,” his wife replies. The same woman, when bereaved , says flatly that she doesn’t care for any company. This, like much in the novel, rings true.
This is a novel that gives the impression of having been lived with for a long time – too long perhaps. There is extravagance here. Wetmore’s second novel will be interesting.
Focusing on several very different women and the repercussions of a horrific crime upom a amasll Texas oil town community, Elizabeth Wetmoee delves into the questios of justice and prejudice with great skill and sensitivity.
It’s like a grimmer, newer version of To Kill A Mockingbird. Many of the same elements feature: the offbeat neighbour, the puzzled child, the racists, the trial that goes wrong.
The characters’ stories are told in turn but the main narrator is Mary Rose Whitehead, to whom the injured girl first came for help. It sounds bleak, and it is, but there is beauty, too; in the landscape, in the spirit of some of the people and most of all in Wetmore’s wonderful writing.
Wetmore’s writing is intense. Sometimes too much so. For all the desire to build an emotive atmosphere, we don’t need to be told that the Texan sky is the colour of an “old bruise” on three occasions. Nor do we really need to hear about the sky 53 times. The author’s compassion, too, can overwhelm the narrative. But the material is powerful and resonates. In a recent interview Wetmore said that what has pleased her most about the novel’s reception is a letter from a woman from Texas that read: “I live here, you nailed it.” Quite.