Summary and book reviews of Where The Heart Is by Billy Letts

Where The Heart Is

By Billy Letts

Where The Heart Is
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  • Hardcover: Jun 1995,
    357 pages.
    Paperback: May 1998,
    376 pages.

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Book Summary

Novalee Nation has always been unlucky with sevens. She's seventeen, seven months pregnant, thirty-seven pounds overweight -- and now she finds herself stranded at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, holding just $7. 77 in change. An hour ago, she was on her way from Tennessee to a new life in Bakersfield, California. Suddenly, with all those sevens staring her in the face, she is forced to accept the scary truth: her no-good boyfriend Willy Jack Pickens has left her with empty pockets and empty dreams.

But Novalee is about to discover treasures hidden in Sequoyah -- a group of disparate and deeply caring people, among them :

Blue-haired Sister Thelma Husband, who hands out advice and photocopied books of the Bible...

Moses Whitecotton, the wise, soft-spoken, elderly black photographer eager to teach Novalee all he knows...

and Forney Hull, the eccentric town librarian who hides his secrets -- and his feelings -- behind his world of books.

Novalee may be homeless and jobless, living secretly in a Wal-Mart, but she's beginning to believe she may have a future. Through all the touching and surprising adventures that lie ahead, she's going in the right direction.

Where the Heart Is puts a human face on the look-alike trailer parks and malls of America's small towns. It will make you believe in the strength of friendship, the goodness of down-to-earth people, and the healing power of love. And it will make you laugh and cry...every step of the way.



Novalee Nation, seventeen, seven months pregnant, thirty-seven pounds overweight--and superstitious about sevens--shifted uncomfortably in the seat of the old Plymouth and ran her hands down the curve of her belly.

For most people, sevens were lucky. But not for her. She'd had a bad history with them, starting with her seventh birthday, the day Momma Nell ran away with a baseball umpire named Fred. Then, when Novalee was in the seventh grade, her only friend, Rhonda Talley, stole an ice cream truck for her boyfriend and got sent to the Tennessee State School for Girls in Tullahoma.

By then, Novalee knew there was something screwy about sevens, so she tried to stay clear of them. But sometimes, she thought, you just can't see a thing coming at you.

And that's how she got stabbed. She just didn't see it coming.

It happened right after she dropped out of school and started waiting tables at Red's, a job that didn't have anything to do with sevens...

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...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Oprah Winfrey
What I love about this book is the message that home and family are not always what you are born into, but in the people and the places where you find love.

School Library Journal

... a humorous and hopeful novel, but that is just what this is. As she sits outside the store taking stock of her situation, plucky Novalee meets several of the town's more unusual inhabitants: Sister Husband, who presents her with a shop-worn welcome-wagon basket; black photographer Moses Whitecotton, who conveys to her the importance of a name for her unborn child; and Indian Benny Goodluck, who gives her a buckeye tree for good luck. These and other Sequoyah citizens rally around Novalee when she has her baby on the floor of Wal-Mart, and form the basis for this most enjoyable novel.

Booklist - Kathleen Hughes

The tribulations of 17-year-old Novalee Nation, daughter of the Tennessee trailer parks, make up a surprisingly long, none-too-subtle tale.....Although the book's emotional manipulation may be distasteful to some, others may find its soap-opera plot and Forrest Gump-ish optimism appealing.

The New York Times Book Review - Dwight Garner

Her novel seems to have its heart in the right place; its head is another matter

Reader Reviews
tullius

meh.
I bought the movie tie in edition at a second hand store so I didn't realize it is more of a young adult genre but I needed something to read on the plane. I'm a little troubled by the depiction of teen pregnancy, that strangers will open their homes...   Read More

Mandy

Best Book(:
This book is so amazing. It shows that no matter how far down the road you are, good or bad, you can always find people who love you and care about you, for YOU(: Novalee's story is life changing and it shows how you can change your life if you want ...   Read More

nichol

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!
My teacher told me that M would like it, but I said I don't know but I would give it a chance. I'm glade I did because this is the best book. I could not stop reading this book and I would tell everyone about it; I cried and laughed and got angry ...   Read More

Teresa

I’ve never spent the night in a Wal-Mart let alone had a child. I had never heard of Sequoyah, Oklahoma or had superstitions of the number seven. Yet I felt completely different after reading “Where the Heart Is”. Billie Letts took me on a reader’s ...   Read More

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