Billie Letts isn’t a new author to most people, but she still deserves a spotlight here. Letts was one of those feel-good literary authors who knew how to weave an unassuming tale. Her novels were appreciated by a broad range of readers, from young adults and up. They are an easy recommendation for readers looking for something easy and entertaining, but still pack an emotional punch.
Where the Heart Is
Published: January 1, 1995, Grand Central Publishing
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: relationships, abandonment, pregnancy, death.
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.
Novalee 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.
Shoot the Moon
Published: January 1, 2004, Warner Books NY
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: adoption, murder, death.
Letts introduces us to Mark Albright. He has recently learned that he was adopted, and although he had lived a charmed life in California, growing up with want for nothing, he still feels that he should learn about where he came from. After some initial investigation, he finds out that his mother, Gaylene Harjo, was murdered in DeClare, Oklahoma, and her son, Nicky Jack, went missing. Seeking that truth, he heads to DeClare and meets the locals who help him patch together his true identity and reveal the secrets of his past.
As usual, Letts has created a cast of characters that bring the fictional small town of DeClare to life. There’s Teeve and Ivy Harjo, a mother/daughter combo that will make you laugh and cry. Then there’s intimidating Ol’ Boy Daniels, the local law enforcement officer who is determined that Mark will cause trouble in chasing the past. There’s adorable Kippy Daniels and his mother Carrie, Ol’ Boy’s family and fast friends of Mark. Each of these characters have their own voices and personality quirks, as well as their own part in aiding Mark.
Between the characters, the dialogue, and the mystery behind Mark’s past, Lett’s novel moves at a rapid pace and keeps the reading involved in the suspense. I actually listened to the audiobook, and it was wonderful. At less than 7 hours of audio, it’s a short time commitment, which was a perfect choice for a refreshing read between heavier, long books. The narration is perfect, but I’d wholly recommend Shoot The Moon to anybody in any format!
Categories: Author Spotlights