Reading guide for Where The Heart Is by Billy Letts

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Where The Heart Is

By Billy Letts

Where The Heart Is
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jun 1995,
    357 pages.
    Paperback: May 1998,
    376 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The theme of "home" runs throughout this novel. Would you characterize home as a place, a family, a state of mind, or, as Sister Husband says, a place "where your history begins"? As a homeless person longing for a home, Novalee's image of home is heavily influenced by the images she sees in maga-zines. How influenced are we all by portrayals of home and home life in the media, movies, and on television?

  2. In the beginning of the novel, Novalee is a poor, uneducated teenage mother whose own mother abandoned her at a young age. Novalee, however, seems to be remarkably maternal and responsible in her parental role. Do you think this is a believable portrayal of teenage motherhood? Is it possible that lacking a loving mother herself she would be such a good mother? Both Novalee and Lexie defy our stereotypes of poor, single mothers. Do you think this is a strength or a weakness of the novel?

  3. Novalee's superstition about the number seven intensifies after the birth of her daughter. What do you make of Novalee's seemingly irrational fears? What role do superstitions play in the lives of even the most rational of us? Are there any other patterns or cycles you recognize in the novel?

  4. Despite his cruelty, women are attracted to Willy Jack and are willing to take care of him. What is the attraction of cruel men to needy women? Lexie says, "Girls like us don't get the pick of the litter." What do you think of this statement? And why do you think that Novalee decides to help Willy Jack when she learns of his plight?

  5. Willy Jack's story is interspersed throughout the novel. Do you think his story is necessary to the plot? Why or why not? If this novel had been told through the eyes of Willy Jack Pickens, in what ways might we see Novalee differently?

  6. Novalee takes pictures to "see something in a way nobody else ever had" and Forney reads to explore the world outside the confines of his own life. Do you think books and photography help them deal with their lives or keep them from dealing with life head on? In what other ways do we use inanimate objects to either cope with life or hide from it?

  7. Children play an important role in this novel. How are their stories important? What do each of the children--Americus, Benny, Praline, Brownie--teach us about love and loss of innocence?

  8. Despite their struggles, Lexie's family is incredibly loving, fun-filled, and close. This is what makes the attack on Lexie and Brownie so heart wrenching and shocking. Do you think Brownie's trust in adults can ever be fully restored? Why do you think the author decided to include such a brutal scene in a book filled with so much kindness?

  9. How did you feel when Novalee spurned Forney? Did you believe they would ultimately end up together? Do you think they are well matched? Do you believe that differences in education and social class matter in a relationship, and what do you think makes it possible to bridge such differences? Or do you believe that people with similar backgrounds tend to be better matched?

  10. There are no traditional families in this novel. Why do you think the author chose to write a book about home and family yet disregarded established notions of what constitutes each? Though many of us accept and embrace different forms of family life, why do you think the traditional family is still frequently portrayed as mother/father/children? Do you think this remains the "ideal"?


Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Warner Books. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Grand Central Publishing. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...
  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois
  2.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin

All Discussions

Who Said...

Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.