"Where the Heart is"
(Warner Books, Paperback, 2000, read: May 2000)
"Talk about unlucky sevens. An hour ago, seventeen-year-old, seven months pregnant Novalee Nation was heading for California with her boyfriend. Now she finds herself stranded at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, with just $7.77 in change. But Novalee is about to discover hidden treasures in this small Southwestern town - a group of down-to-earth, deeply caring people who will come to love her more than she loves herself, and start her on a moving, warmhearted, and unforgettable journey to ... where the heart is."
The story sounds kitschig. And it really is. But why not? If it's well written and you're in the right mood there's nothing better.
The pregnant Novalee Nation gets dumped by her boyfriend in the middle of nowhere and makes herself comfortable at a Wal-Mart because she has no place else to go. She gets to know the people of Sequoyah, a collection of lovable and strange characters who help her to get a grip on her life. Of course there are the classical funny and tragic events which belong to a story like that. And you fear for Novalee that she manages to survive the accidents in her life unharmed. But when she is able to jump over her own shadow and tell the right man that she loves him, everything will be fine. And that's the way it should be.
This great book for a cosy weekend on the sofa or for a vacation has in the meantime been successfully made into a movie with Natalie Portman in the starring role.
[Dorothée Büttgen, May 00]
"The Honk and Holler Opening Soon"
(Warner Books, Hardcover, 3rd edition, 1998, read: August 2001)
"The neon sign had seemed appropriate when the Honk and Holler Opening Soon was being built. But twelve years later, the once-busy highway outside Sequoyah, Oklahoma, is little traveled, and "opening soon" is a tired joke. Today the sign is as battered and beaten as the cafe and its owner, Caney Paxton, a Vietnam War veteran who hasn't ventured outside since its opening.
The characters who drift in and out of the Honk don't change much: Molly O, a four-times married earth mother who recognizes a wounded spirit when she meets one; Life Halstead, a widower who eats three meals a day in the cafe so he can be near Molly O; Hooks Red Eagle, Soldier Starr, and Quinton Roach, Cherokee veterans of World War II; and Bilbo and Peg Porter - Bilbo steadily puffing his smokes while Peg struggles for breath through her oxygen mask.
With Christmas only days away, their lives are to be forever changed with the arrival of Vena Takes Horse, a Crow woman on a quest, and Bui Khanh, a Vietnamese refugee looking for home.
A story that crackles and sizzles like burgers on a red-hot grill, The Honk and Holler Opening Soon captures a small town's prejudice and tolerance, violence and big-heartedness. It convinces us that dark clouds can really have silver linings. And it leaves us hungry for more writing from Billie Letts and the Oklahoma she portrays with so much vitality and love."
In her second novel Billie Letts again writes about the strange citizens of Sequoyah, Oklahoma, but the two novels are in no way connected. "Honk and Holler" is no sequel to "Where the Heart is". The town seems to stand for all small American towns where the citizens have enough to do with themselves but whose life is all shaken up because of strangers.
Here they are Vena, a great waitress who brings some life back into the diner and its owner, and Bui, a Vietnamese man who can fix everything and cook nothing. It seems that the diner's regulars can deal with their lives and like to do the same things day in day out. But it's not as perfect as it seems. Vena and Bui (independently from each other) start some events and make some mistakes but in the end they enrich the life in this town and everyone is glad that they had the chance to do so.
Hopefully Billie Letts will soon finish her next novel. It's been 3 years since "Honk and Holler" was first published. But before that be sure not to miss this beautiful story.
[Dorothée Büttgen, September 01]
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