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Outside Valentineby Liza Ward
Synopses & Reviews
A debut novelist interweaves a trio of voices — haunting, dangerous, full of longing — mysteriously linked by a shocking crime and the search to heal the past.
Many long years have passed since the winter of blinding white when Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate drove across the hushed midwestern landscape and left a trail of blood and pain. So why does Lowell, a Manhattan collector of antiquities, still dream of what happened, despite his wife's best attempts to draw him back and offer comfort? And who is Susan, the teenager who appoints herself a detective, piecing together the story of the murders while wondering if she'll ever be loved like Starkweather loved his girl?
And then there's Caril Ann herself, who takes us back to relive the ride she swears she could not control. It began on the day Charlie first saw her, dangling her bare legs off the edge of a tree house. It ended outside Valentine, Nebraska, on that night when she still believed that life could somehow go back to being normal...
Every so often a novel comes along that is capable of redeeming the losses it so devastatingly conveys. Disturbing, bittersweet, and lyrical, Liza Ward's Outside Valentine is a story of people torn apart by tragedy and yet, finally, transformed by love.
"In this riveting literary suspense novel, first-timer Ward presents in lean, luminous prose a precarious world where true love can ravage as well as redeem, exploring a series of murders in Lincoln, Nebr., in the 1950s from the perspective of three narrators. After an argument with her volatile stepfather, 14-year-old Caril Ann Fugate flees into the woods behind her house, where she spies (the real-life killer) red-haired Charles Starkweather, carrying a .22 rifle. From their first uneasy meeting, the girl senses that she and Starkweather are meant to be together. Ward eerily evokes a romantic union destined for disaster; the emotionally unsettled Starkweather pledges eternal love to the impressionable teen as he entangles her in murders that change their lives forever. Four years after the slayings that shook her hometown, Lincoln teenager Susan Hurst continues to pore over newspaper clippings about Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, secretly envious of their dark, desperate love. Bemused by a distant father and mercurial mother, Susan has trouble relating to peers until she meets Lowell Bowman, son of two of the murder victims. Thirty years later, Lowell Bowman, now a Manhattan art collector, remains haunted by visions of his parents' murder. He has grown apart from his wife, who pesters him about retrieving a mysterious safe deposit box. Traumatized by the past and fearful of the future, Bowman embarks on a solitary quest to examine the contents of the box and the purpose of his life. On the novel's acknowledgments page, Ward thanks her father for allowing her to explore such 'delicate material.' An already chilling novel drops a few more degrees at the unsettling admission that it's based in truth. Agent, Rob McQuilkin. (Sept.) Forecast: Ward's debut — solidly backed by Holt with a $100,000 ad/promo campaign and a 10-city author tour — should appeal to readers of true crime as well as fans of literary fiction." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A gifted writer, Ward uses simple imagery to chilling effect. A dog with a broken neck hiding under the bed after its owner has been murdered and a dead schoolgirl with her skirt pulled up...are as vivid as anything filmmakers have fashioned from the same raw material." Susan Coll, The Washington Post Book World
"[S]uspenseful and chilling....Ward manages to tell the tale from all sides, and astonishingly...reveals a deeply affecting story about everyone involved, including the girl who went along for the murderous ride." Hartford Courant
"Liza Ward's provocative debut...delves into the lives not only of her protagonists, but also of the people related to the victims. She dissects not just the horror of these real-life crimes, but the more subtle, rippling effects on those left behind." BookPage
"What Ward effectively shows is that tragedy keeps on happening. But she also holds forth the possibility that love can save people. Some people." Houston Chronicle
"Outside Valentine has a slowly tightening noose of a plot....But while Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate's relationship is vivid in the reader's mind, the novel's other, quieter emotional struggle sadly pales in its glare." Elissa Schappell, The New York Times Book Review
"An intricate and challenging novel that examines the inner lives of men and women swept up in a devastating American crime. Ward's portraits are harrowing, heartfelt and unforgettable." Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife
"Written with confidence and grace, Outside Valentine tells an astounding story about how violence can propel us apart, yes, but how it can also bring us together in unexpected ways. Liza Ward has written an utterly gripping book." Vendela Vida, author of And Now You Can Go
"Blunt, beautiful, and very scary, Outside Valentine proves that a murder doesn't end with death — it just goes on and on, staining generations, tolling across decades. It's a first novel with the weight of a tenth. Liza Ward has the ears of a wolf, the eyes of an owl, and a tongue as sharp as broken glass." J. Robert Lennon, author of On the Night Plain
"A swift and beautifully written first novel about the lingering effects of violence and the power of love, to heal and to destroy. With extraordinary emotional accuracy, Liza Ward tracks the echoes of a murder across three generations and several lives, bringing them together in an ending both mysterious and musical. Outside Valentine seems to know all the secrets, and to be willing to tell them. Simply an amazing debut." Kevin Canty, author of Honeymoon and other Stories and Into the Great Wide Open
"Liza Ward runs a tight, thrumming line through her narrative, punching up scenes with a sharp practiced touch and bringing wise compassion to bear on the tragic events that unfold with such dark inevitability." Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies and My Sky Blue Trades, a memoir
"Well-written in spite of often dubious similes, the novel with its textbook ending, at once inevitable and disturbing, packs a wallop. That it was inspired by the experiences of the author's grandparents makes its premise all the more poignant." Denver Post
"[A]mbitious and disturbing....Grim but not gratuitous, sad but ultimately hopeful, Ward's novel is ideal for fans of Oprah's Book Club." Library Journal
Debut novelist Ward interweaves a trio of voices — haunting, dangerous, and full of longing — mysteriously linked by a shocking crime and the search to heal the past.
Liza Ward's spellbinding first novel is told from the very different points of view of three narrators mysteriously linked by a shocking crime and their efforts to heal the past. Based on the Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate murders in Nebraska in the 1950s, Outside Valentine examines the effects of violence and the power of love as the three voices interweave and show the lingering and devastating aftershocks of murder across three generations. Mysterious and disturbing, Liza Ward's first novel is, in the words of Anita Shreve, "heartbreaking and unforgettable."
About the Author
Liza Ward was born in New York City and holds degrees from Middlebury College and the University of Montana. Her stories have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, The Antioch Review, and Agni Review. They have also been selected for the 2004 O. Henry Prize Stories and Harcourt's 2004 Best New American Voices collection. She lives in Massachusetts.
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