Mix up your quarantine plans next month by joining Jenna Bush Hager's book club, Read With Jenna. The TODAY co-host just revealed her pick for April 2020: "Valentine" by Elizabeth Wetmore.
"For anybody looking for a great escape, this is a wonderful book where you will find yourself really engrossed in the stories of these women," Jenna said.
Set in Odessa, Texas, in 1976, the novel follows the aftermath of a horrific act of violence: the attack of a 14-year-old girl named Gloria Ramirez. Told through different characters' perspectives, the story explores how race and class intersect in a small, secluded community on the cusp of an oil boom.
Book of the Month is a subscription-based book club that delivers hardcover books to your door at an affordable price. Each month, Book of the Month Club selects 5 hot, new titles — starting in Jan. 2020, one of these will always be the #ReadwithJenna pick. Subscribers then choose which book you want delivered — your first month is $9.99 with code READWITHJENNA and after that, it’s $14.99 a month. You can easily pause your subscription at any time or skip a month and roll your credit from one month to another.
Just so you know, TODAY has a relationship with Book of the Month Club, so we make a share of revenue from purchases on and subscriptions to Book of the Month Club.
"Elizabeth really developed these characters that I felt like I knew," Jenna gushed about Wetmore's debut work. "I found myself missing them when the story was over. The women are complicated. They are a lot of things at once."
The complicated nature of the book makes it especially relevant in this day and age.
As Wetmore explained it, "It’s not an easy book, and in a lot of ways, it’s not a happy book, but ultimately I see it as a novel of hope in the midst of a terrible crisis and about the ferocity of these women’s spirits."
The book's authenticity is rooted in the author's childhood in West Texas, which inspired the story.
"I spent a good portion of my childhood eavesdropping on my mother and her girlfriends as they sat out on the back porch after dinner, and I listened to them telling stories," Wetmore told TODAY. "They would sit out there with their cigarettes and mix drinks because it was the '70s, and I listened to them rehashing their days."
One of Wetmore's goal's with the book was to capture the essence of where she grew up. In Jenna's eyes, she was successful.
"I was born in Midland, Texas, and I really think she got the place right," Jenna said.
Jenna discovered the book when Valerie Koeher, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, recommended it to her.
"She knew I would love 'Valentine' because I love West Texas," said Jenna. "She knew I would see glimpses of my grandma Jenna, a homemaker who never graduated but took geology classes at the local community college and taught me every constellation in the sky."
Independent booksellers, such as Blue Willow Bookshop, often champion new literature in the way Koeher championed "Valentine." But due to the coronavirus crisis, many have closed their doors and are struggling to make ends meet.
If you can, support a local bookstore when purchasing your copy of April's Read With Jenna. You can also donate to independent bookstores through the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.
To stay involved all month long, be sure to follow us on Instagram (don't forget to tag your photos with #ReadWithJenna), join our Read With Jenna Facebook group and follow along on Goodreads to continue the conversation about "Valentine."