The figurative language of Elizabeth Wetmore

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors and similes from Elizabeth Wetmore…

Before devoting herself to writing, Elizabeth Wetmore (pictured above), tended bar, taught English, drove a cab, edited psychology dissertations, and painted silos and cooling towers at a petrochemical plant.

A native of West Texas, she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is the recipient of a fellowship from the US National Endowment for the Arts. Her Texan roots are on full display in her first, luminous novel, Valentine, published earlier this year.

In this story — focusing on community reactions to the sexual assault of a young Latina girl — Wetmore makes superb use of figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • The sky turns purple in the east, then blue-black, then old-bucket slate.
  • Gloria scans the pumpjacks moving up and down, great steel grasshoppers, always hungry.
  • When a bobwhite begins to call its own name, the sound gently pries the morning open.
  • It was too hot to drive home, so they went over to the Westwood Mall, where they sat on a bench near the food court, both of them clutching bottles of cold Dr Pepper as if they were hand grenades.
  • It has been a dry winter and the Bermuda grass is a pale brown scarf.
  • The day is lit up like an interrogation room, the sun a fierce bulb in an otherwise empty sky.
  • She also pretends not to see any of the neighbor kids who have spilled out of houses and across lawns like pecans from an overturned basket.
  • She is walking home, the basketball a steady heartbeat against the sidewalk.
  • Her bony clavicle rose and fell, and a thick scar on her neck reminded Ginny of the state map hanging on the wall in her first-grade classroom. Something about that long mark made Ginny want to wake her up and tell her, Lady, you got a scar in the shape of the Sabine River on your neck.
  • She gets out of the car and watches the moon rise over the desert like a broken carnelian.
  • The wind moves from window to window, a small animal sharpening its claws on the screens.
  • She ran over and held on to me as if she were caught in a tornado and I was the last fence post still standing.
  • The bunkhouse at the man camp in Big Lake has a leaky faucet and crickets the size of jalapeños.
  • The woman jumps to her feet and hustles across the pool deck, large and quick as a parade float caught in a sharp wind.