Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: relationships, abandonment, pregnancy, death.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Propped up on the “Top Shelf Recommendation” bookcase in the local library, Where the Heart Is grabbed my attention with the pretty yet simple cover and the quick description of Novalee Nation’s dislike for the number seven. By the end of the novel, it grabbed my heart as well.
I was quickly wrapped up in the story of Novalee Nation as her and her boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens, were westbound for better luck. Natives of Tennessee, Novalee grew up without parents- she didn’t know her father and her mother left her when she was seven – dropped out school her sophomore year, and was living with Willy in a trailer, and seven months pregnant. This misfortune left Novalee dreaming of a home without wheels under it, gold framed family photographs, and blue china in the kitchen cabinets. Willy, on the other hand, was dreaming of money and riches and sipping sloe gin fizzes at Santa Anita. Little did they know that their lives were about to go in completely different directions. On a potty-break pit-stop at Walmart, Willy decides to ditch pregnant Novalee and heads west alone, only to end up in more trouble. Novalee, unsure and in disbelief that Willy would leave her stranded, has no real option other than to hang around the Walmart and see if he returns.
When she realizes that Willy isn’t coming back and that she is indeed stuck in podunk Oklahoma, Novalee starts making a plan. She takes up residence in Walmart, befriends some locals- including Sister Husband, Moses Whitecotton, and Forney Hull (who I think all readers will love)- and starts preparing for the birth of her child, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to afford hospital bills. However, when the big moment arrives, Novalee’s life is going to change forever.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)
I absolutely loved this book. I had a slight sense of deja vu that I’ve read it before, or seen parts of the movie (that I’ll now have to definitely watch and compare), but it didn’t spoil any of the plot twists and surprises that Letts had set in store for the readers. It is an older book- published in 1992- but it doesn’t feel too dated and has such a timeless plot that makes it easy to relate to in current times.
I found myself so submerged in the pages that a couple of times I had to remember where I was when I looked up! I highly suggest you read it, and if you won’t take mine or the library’s recommendation, it also has seal of approval by Oprah’s Book Club. Absolutely beautiful story.
TL/DR: Where the Heart Is is a literary fiction novel about young pregnant woman abandoned in a small town, and the characters who take her in.
Read it? Yes, although it is a slower-paced novel, it’s still beautifully told.
Recommend it? Yes!
Buy it? It’s a backlist book, so it’s easy and usually inexpensive to get your own copy, but you could skip buying this book for a borrowed copy as well.
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