Where the Heart Is, by Billie Lett ****

wheretheheartis  I recently read and enjoyed another title by this author. A quick internet search brought me to this title, which the same search told me had made Oprah’s book club. I rarely watch daytime television and have never seen that show, but I know that books she recommends are often titles I like as well. Such was the case here.

Just imagine it: seventeen years old, basketball-belly pregnant, and riding in a car so beat-up that when you nod off, your shoes fall off your feet and through the rusted-out spot in the floor of the car. There they go! And what could be worse than that?

Then the man of your dreams, who to be fair doesn’t seem all that engaged in your relationship, drops you off at Walmart to get some house shoes, and floors it as soon as you enter the store. There he goes, too.

This story is fascinating because it forces us to examine the difference between innocence and ignorance, between the trusting nature that being a trustworthy person sometimes engenders, versus straight-up stupidity.

Novalee Nation is innocent and maybe a little bit ignorant, but when given the chance to improve her own knowledge base, she does it with enthusiasm. She isn’t stupid; she suddenly realizes, as she enters the Walmart, that Roger would not have given her a ten dollar bill when she only asked for five, if he hadn’t planned to dump her there. She runs back out to the parking lot, but she’s too late. All she has now is Walmart.

Once in awhile the fringe characters in this affable tale are a tad overdrawn (all those bandaids; really?), but most of them–Sister Husband, Forney, Moses Whitecotton, and others, not to mention our protagonist– are so palpable that I found myself inventing other scenarios for them as if they were actual people. That’s always a good sign.

So get your copy–I got mine at the Seattle Public Library–and hunker down in your favorite reading spot. This is engaging fiction from a writer I’ll be following in years to come.

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