Book Review: Made in the USA by Billie Letts
Made in the USA by Billie Letts
Billie Letts’ wowed the critics and public with her debut novel, Where the Heart Is. Made in the USA will earn her even more fans. This is a beautifully written book with a strong emotional centre. A tale of loss, love and survival it follows the story of two children searching for a place to call home. 15-year-old Lute is an ‘almost pretty’ teenager, moody, selfish, gymnastically talented but also emotionally damaged. Her eleven-year-old brother, Fate, is a nerdy, but extremely bright boy with a passion for learning. Their mother died years ago, so when their father’s hefty ex-girlfriend suddenly dies, instead of waiting around to become wards of the state they head off to Las Vegas in search of their dad. But will they be able to find him? And if they do find him, will this drunk who abandoned his children be able step up to give them the love and security they so desperately need?
This is a very moving coming-of-age tale as the two youngster’s battle for survival in Las Vegas, their situation becoming increasingly desperate. Behind the bright lights Las Vegas quickly proves to be ‘Sin City’, a place of vice and corruption, and certainly no place for two gutsy, but vulnerable young people. But just when life is at its most frightening, Juan, a Mexican man with his own troubled past connects with the children. He offers them hope for the future – although Lute, in particular, seems unwilling to let him help her after years of pushing people away, bitterly aware of past disappointments, heartbreak and loss.
Made in the USA is a wonderful read – at times heartbreaking, but more often life-affirming. The two damaged children are compelling and memorable characters, idiosyncratic yet loveable. Ultimately this is a book about the power of love to change lives, and you will want to read to the end to see if the children find the home they long for. Billie Letts is an accomplished writer with a talent for creating characters you will remember long after you have finished the book. This is a first-rate book with a big heart!