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Where the Heart is (Oprah's Book Club) Hardcover – February 1, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,427 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, December 1998: A funny thing happens to Novalee Nation on her way to Bakersfield, California. Her ne'er-do-well boyfriend, Willie Jack Pickens, abandons her in an Oklahoma Wal-Mart and takes off on his own, leaving her with just 10 dollars and the clothes on her back. Not that hard luck is anything new to Novalee, who is "seventeen, seven months pregnant, thirty-seven pounds overweight--and superstitious about sevens.... For most people, sevens were lucky. But not for her," Billie Letts writes. "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..."

Still, finding herself alone and penniless in Sequoyah, Oklahoma is enough to make even someone as inured to ill fortune as Novalee want to give up and die. Fortunately, the Wal-Mart parking lot is the Sequoyah equivalent of a town square, and within hours Novalee has met three people who will change her life: Sister Thelma Husband, a kindly eccentric; Benny Goodluck, a young Native American boy; and Moses Whitecotton, an elderly African American photographer. For the next two months, Novalee surreptitiously makes her home in the Wal-Mart, sleeping there at night, exploring the town by day. When she goes into labor and delivers her baby there, however, Novalee learns that sometimes it's not so bad to depend on the kindness of strangers--especially if one of them happens to be Sam Walton, the superchain's founder.

Where the Heart Is oddly mixes heart-warming vignettes and surprising, brutal violence. Novalee's story is juxtaposed with occasional chapters chronicling Willy Jack's downward spiral into prison, disappointment, and degradation. And even in Sequoyah, sudden storms, domestic violence, kidnapping, and deadly fires punctuate Novalee's progress from homeless, unwed teen mom to successful, happy member of the community. This is not a subtle book; there's never any doubt that our heroine will make a home for herself and her baby or that Willy Jack will get what he deserves for abandoning them. Still, Billie Letts has created several memorable characters, and there's always room for another novel that celebrates the life-affirming qualities of reading, the importance of education, and the power of love to change lives. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Letts's debut novel concerns a pregnant teenage girl who finds a new life among the quirky inhabitants of a small town in Oklahoma.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oprah's Book Club
  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756902738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756902735
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,427 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
You know that you like to laugh, as well as feel sober and near tears. This is a book that should please. The well-thumbed trade paperback in our library continues to be checked out and praised. Even since the movie was released, folks still want to read the words of Billie Letts, a comic, heart-felt word crafter.
Such great names as Novalee and Americus Nation, Willy Jack Pickens, Sister Husband, Moses Whitecotton, make the reader want to see what this is all about. And Novalee's superstition over the number 7 adds to the folksie manner in which Letts develops her story. As to plot, a baby born in a Wal-Mart, why not?
In one episode, you find yourself laughing out loud, and in another there is suspense, sorrow, and a teary eye. Letts gives you the full experience in a book that can't be put down. Add these characters to your friends in print. And read The Honk And Holler Opening Soon, too. While not a sequel, exactly, it does depict another set of Sequoiah, Oklahomans who are a part of another good story.
Letts is a talented story teller. For a relaxing good read, try her books.
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Format: Paperback
A Walker Percy Award Winner, this believable down-home tale will melt over your senses like warm butter over thick grits! Letts tells the story of a young pregnant girl who is left stranded by her boyfriend in a small town at Wal-Mart. She lives in the store until the night she gives birth to her baby in the middle of the Wal-Mart floor. When the secret of her living, sleeping, eating, and having a baby in Wal-Mart gets out, Novalee Nation becomes an instant headliner! The people in the town fall in love with this seventeen-year old girl and her miracle baby. What she finds in this town full of strangers who open up their hearts to her is a place she can call home. Novalee is full of life and positive spirit. She is determined and overcomes each obstacle thrown her way by never giving up. Through losing her boyfriend, losing her baby, losing her best friend, and losing her job, Novalee still marches on. This book can be read easily in one sitting, no complex words or lengthy paragraphs, just an unpredictable plot full of wonderfully descriptive narative and infectiously endearing characters. Where the Heart Is can be read, understood, and loved by the whole family!
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Format: Paperback
Billie Letts has created a novel unlike I have ever read. From start to finish, this book is surprising, unexpected and very creative. She never takes the easy way out, NOR does she do what you think she's going too. Her characters are one of a kind, and unlike any you've ever read about. Sister Husband is worth the price of the book alone.
"Where The Heart Is" is a wonderful book that digs deep into your heart and tells a wonderful story. I found it very enjoyable, a nice and easy read. Certainly one for anybody looking for a good story with interesting characters. Very enjoyable!
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By A Customer on June 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Some of the previous reviews said that this book was"sugary" and "cheesy." Yes, I agree, it can becheesy, sugary, and all those other food-description words. But it has very good character development and I think it's a cute book. I'm fourteen and can relate to the main character, Novalee, who is seventeen (and by the end of the book twenty-five). When she is seven months pregnant she is abandoned by the father of her baby at a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma. She finds her place in a small community where she raises her daughter, Americus. Forney, Sister Husband, Moses Whitecotton, Benny Goodluck, Lexie Coop, and many others quickly become Novalee's friend. All these characters have different and colorful personalities. It's a fairly long book, but a quick read, and I recommend it to anyone aged twelve and over just for a nice, fun read. It's fast-paced and a lot happens. Also it follows Willy Jack's story as he tries to make it as a musician, and it's almost like a separate book.
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Format: Paperback
I started reading this book on Thanksgiving Day and finished it by the following Monday. The book is engaging with its eccentric characters, its lighthearted way of dealing with the pitfalls and tragedies of life, and its overall message of love and redemption. I'll be looking for more Billie Letts books in the future.
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Format: Paperback
Meet Novalee Nation, a highly superstitious seventeen year old, seven months pregnant and stranded at Wal-Mart with seven dollars and seventy-seven cents in her pocket. Abandoned by her boyfriend in Sequoia, Oklahoma on their way to California, Novalee will soon discover that home is where your history begins. Wandering in and out of Wal-Mart in a haze of disbelief, she meets three people who end up playing major roles in her life in the years to follow. Moses Whitecotton, her mentor, Benny Goodluck, her inspiration and Sister Thelma Husband, her sponsor on life's journey. Novalee's first nightis spent, after being accidentally, or perhaps fate-ly, locked inside the store, waiting for her history to begin.
Sleeping in Wal-Mart every night, surviving on canned foods from the shelves (of which she keeps an exact detailed price list, in order to pay her debt someday) Novalee sneaks out through the employees entrance into the world of small town, America. The library draws her in search of a cure for her sick tree, and here she finds a man who will grow to love her more than she loves herself. Overcoming her childhood of abandonment and growing up with neighbors, Novalee becomes a woman, a mother and finds herself along the way. Living under the tin roof of Sister Husband's trailer, Novalee loyally works at Wal-Mart while discovering her deep love for her daughter and her passion for photography. She grows to love herself as she develops from the empty frame of feeling unloved and unwanted to the picture of a confident, self fulfilled woman who learns to look fear straight in the eye.
Billie Letts' debut novel is a glimpse into the every day of American people. Letts has breathed life into her characters that lead you by the heartstrings through their stories.
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