Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts

Readers of this blog might know that I tend to not like (or try to avoid) authors that everyone loves or are Oprah books, etc. Many many years ago I read a book called Where the Heart Is. I still remember how I heard of it-the NYPL Books for the Teen Age.  They summarize books in something like 10 words of less. The description for this book was “17 year old has baby in a Wal-Mart” (or something like that.) So I read it and loved it and passed it on to my mom and she loved it. And then Oprah had to go and pick and they had to make a dumb movie out of it. Thus this author who I was so pleased to find was suddenly popular and common.  But that couldn’t stop me from eagerly reading each book she wrote. (At the time another author I really liked and tended to group with her was Lorna Landvik.) Letts wrote nice heartwarming good stories and I really enjoyed them.  I hadn’t thought of her in years until last week when my mom passed on this new book of her to me.

Fate and Lutie are brothers and sisters who’ve had a pretty wretched life. Their mom died when they were young, their dad is a drunk who eventually leaves them with an ex-girlfriend while he takes off for Las Vegas.  When the ex drops dead at Wal-Mart (what is it with Letts and Wal-Marts and births and deaths?) Fate and Lutie take off for Las Vegas to find their dad. Fate is 11, smart, introspective, never had a friend.  Lutie has a tough exterior and makes one horrible decision after another. I found myself not too sympathetic to her because I was so fond of the Fate character and her poor decisions directly impacted him.  In Las Vegas Lutie quickly turns to drugs and porn to try to provide for herself and her brother.  The depiction of Las Vegas makes it seem like the deadliest, most dangerous, most despicable city in the world. At least, for two homeless poor kids. Fortunately for them they have a secret protector who does his best to help them out. When that’s not good enough he takes them (and here’s where this is so facinating) to….his circus family!

This is a real feel good, heartwarming story (once you get past the sadness and horribleness of their time in Sin City).  I love a good story like this.  I did think the ending wrapped up much too quickly.  I loved all the information about circuses and the circus life and could have happily read another 25 pages of it.

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3 thoughts on “Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts

  1. I agree about Where the Heart Is being surprisingly awesome. I’m definitely going to look for this title next time I go book shopping. Thanks for the rec!

  2. i am currently reading Made in the USA. It is one of those books that just don’t want to put down because you need to know what is happening next. Billie Letts is fantastic writer .

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