This is my review for the novel Where The Heart Is by Billie Letts.
Where The Heart Is tells the story of an abandoned pregnant teenager over the course of seven years.
The novel opens with Novalee Nation and her boyfriend Willy Jack Pickens traveling from Tennessee to California. Novalee is seven months pregnant. When they arrive in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, Novalee asks Willy Jack to stop at a Wal-Mart so that she can use the restroom and buy some shoes, as hers fell through the floor of their beat up car. When Novalee goes back outside, she finds that Willy Jack has left her with nothing but her beach bag and $7.77. She spends the day in Wal-Mart where she meets Sister Husband who mistakes her for a girl she once knew, Moses Whitecotton, a photographer who gives her a photo album and tells her to give her baby a name that means something and Benny Goodluck, a Native American who gives her a Buckeye tree for good luck. Novalee spends the next two months living in the Wal-Mart, writing down everything she takes so that she can pay it all back later. She also meets Forney Hull one day at the library when she goes to get a book about Buckeyes because hers is dying. She eventually asks Sister Husband to plant the tree in her yard and she will take care of it. Sister tells her she can come back anytime she likes. Novalee gives birth to a daughter in the Wal-Mart with help from Forney, who has been watching her go in at night. She names the baby Americus. While in the hospital she befriends her nurse, Lexi and learns that she has been on the news for having the Wal-Mart baby. She is offered at job at the Wal-Mart and gets a visit from her estranged mother who leaves with the money that Novalee gives her to get them an apartment together. When Novalee and Americus are released from the hospital, her mother never shows and she realizes she had left and taken Novalee’s money with her. She goes to live with Sister Husband and she becomes a mother figure for Novalee.
The story is very sweet and heart wrenching. The story also follows what happens to Willy Jack after he abandons Novalee. I love the relationships between Novalee and Forney, Lexi, Moses and Sister Husband. Each one is different but brings something to Novalee that she has never had before, a family.
Novalee Nation ~ A pregnant teenager who is abandoned by her boyfriend. She is a strong character with such a selfless personality. She wants everyone to be happy even if it means she isn’t. She has a bad relationship with the number seven. Her mother left when she was seven, her best friend in seventh grade was arrested, a customer at the diner she worked at went crazy and cut her and it took seventy-seven stitches to close her up, her boyfriend abandoned her when she was seven months pregnant and left her with $7.77.
Forney Hull ~ Forney loves books and is very smart. His sister is the town’s librarian but she is an alcoholic so he took over for her after having to drop out of college to take care of her. He follows Novalee one night and learns she is living in the Wal-Mart but doesn’t say anything and he gives her a little birthday celebration in the library. He loves Americus and always brings her books to read and also reads to her. He falls in love with Novalee and hopes that she feels the same way.
Lexi ~ She is Novalee’s nurse and they become best friends. She has four kids by all different men and doesn’t have the best of luck when it comes to relationships. She ends up being in a relationship with a man who beats her up after she finds him messing around with her kids. Everything turns around for Lexi in the end.
Sister Husband ~ She is a kind woman with blue hair. She has a deep faith and drives the town’s “Welcome Wagon” handing out chapters of the bible to people she meets. She “mistakes” Novalee for a girl she used to know and eventually takes her and Americus in to live with her. She becomes a mother to Novalee and a grandmother to Americus. She also has a boyfriend named Mr. Sprock.
Willy Jack Pickens ~ Novalee’s boyfriend who abandons her when she is seven months pregnant. He ends up serving jail time and writes a song. After he is released he gets a manager and his song becomes a hit. He becomes unhappy with not moving forward in his career and looks for new management. When his manager finds out she tells him that someone else is claiming to have written the song and he should ask the other manager for help and cuts him off. He ends up being a drunk and is hit by a train one night and loses his legs. At the end of the novel he sees Novalee again and she brings him home to Tennessee.
Moses Whitecotton ~ Novalee meets Moses when he is taking photographs at Wal-Mart. He becomes her mentor as Novalee becomes interested in photography. She visits his home often and meets his wife. Moses tells Novalee one day that he and his wife had a daughter who died tragically when she was a young child. Novalee leaves Americus with Moses and his wife from time to time when she needs to go somewhere.
There is both romance and tragedy in this novel. I love the romance between Novalee and Forney. It starts out as friendship and develops over time. I love that they take their time and it doesn’t feel rushed. There is also quite a bit of tragedy. Novalee is abandoned and pregnant, Lexi and her kids go through a horrible period when her boyfriend abuses them and there is also the death of a beloved character.
I love the writing of this book. Billie Letts is an amazing storyteller. Any part of this novel could happen in the real world and I think that’s what makes it such a strong novel. It really pulls at your heartstrings especially knowing that it’s something that a real person can go through. I love the balance of romance, sadness, friendship and family. I enjoyed the writing style and the fact that we not only get Novalee and her friends story but we also get to see where Willy Jack’s life brought him as well.
I didn’t really have any issues with this novel. Some parts were harder to read than others and some details I could have lived without but other than that I think it is an amazing story.
I really enjoyed this novel. I laughed at times and I cried at times. I felt bad for certain characters, I rooted for them and I was happy for them. I gave this novel 5 stars on Goodreads and I would definitely recommend that everyone read it.
That’s my review. I hope you enjoyed it and definitely give the book a try if you haven’t read it already. There is also a movie based on the novel that is very good as well.