Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
In her 17 years Novalee Nation has seen the rough life. The number seven is her unlucky number. She and her boyfriend Willie Jack leave Tennesee for California when she is seven months pregnant. They stop in a Walmart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma. When she receives $7.77 in change, she knows she is in trouble. She runs outside, but Willy Jack is gone. He was tired of her needs and left to take care of his own. Now she’s alone. That first day she meets some interesting people – Sister Husband, Moses Whitecotton, and Benny Goodluck. She doesn’t tell them her story, though. Instead she makes them part of her story of the day. Then she hides out in Walmart for the night.
In fact, Novalee lives in the Walmart for the next couple months until her baby is born. She goes out in the day. One place she likes to go is the library. Fourney Hull is the caretaker there – his absent sister is the librarian. Fourney starts watching out for Novalee. He sees things in her she doesn’t see herself. She meets Lexie Coop in the hospital when their babies are born. Soon Novalee is involved with the people of Sequoyah. These people become the family she never had.
Billie Letts takes an inplausible beginning and turns it into a heart warming novel. It’s not necessarily a feel good book all the time – people are people and bad things happen. Yet Where the Heart Is shows that family and love may be where you would never had thought to look.
Letts makes her characters feel real. Sister Husband’s eccentricities, Moses Whitecotton’s dignity, Lexie’s desire to find the right man, Benny’s growing up, and Fourney’s care for others bring them to life. Although Novalee has had a hard life which doesn’t look to get much easier anytime soon, she is optimistic. Otherwise, why would she try to grow a buckeye tree while living in a Walmart?
Willy Jack’s story is also followed, but not as closely. His story is of much harder luck than Novalee’s. Of course he brings on a lot of it himself. While he’s selfishly looking out just for himself, he forgets others are doing the same thing and treats other people callously. He’s not so much mean as uncaring of others. If they’re not useful to him he’ll turn away from them like he does Novalee at the Walmart store.
I kept picturing the people from the movie for the characters. While the two are similar, they grow farther apart as Novalee matures. Letts’ physcial descriptions were nebulous enough that I rarely said “Oh, they cast that person wrong.” Yet I still felt the people in the book come to life even if I had the move’s pictures in my head.
Letts’ tone remains positive and upbeat throughout the novel even during the worst events. Hardships aren’t ignored, but are usually overcome. Where the Heart Is pulls the reader in for an endearing ride.
Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong indecent language, Suggestive dialogue or situations