1. The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert:
2. Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts:
Much like me and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Where the Heart Is is another older book that's also a movie and I hadn't read or seen either, so I figured I would start with the book and then see the movie. This is totally the kind of book I would expect Oprah to choose for her book club in the '90s. It's almost a cliché just because of that. Where the Heart Is follows pregnant seventeen-year-old Novalee Nation, who is abandoned by her boyfriend Willy Jack in a Walmart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma. Having nowhere else to go, she secretly moves into the Walmart where she eventually gives birth to a daughter named Americus. Novalee and her daughter receive significant media attention as the girl who delivered a baby in a Walmart, and having also been abandoned by her mother several times, Novalee is taken in by the town's colorful characters. For the most part, Where the Heart Is reminded me a lot of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd...just a weaker, whiter version. The first half of the book is cute and sweet in an innocent, childlike kind of way; Novalee is so young and naive but still manages to give her daughter the best life she can. Ultimately, though, the book's plot is an absolute mess: not a lot happens in the second half, and the story's timeline goes all over the place. Some chapters also follow Willy Jack, who ends up in prison where he writes a country song that becomes a hit after he's released and he goes on to have a career as a country music star? That was just random. I feel like Where the Heart Is is an okay book that can stay nostalgically with the rest of our feels from the '90s, because it doesn't hold up with the classic books of today. The story is dated in so many little ways, most importantly with the fact that Novalee just lives in a Walmart unnoticed for months? I guess chain department stores didn't have alarm systems and security in '90s Sequoyah, Oklahoma? The writing style was also amateurish and immature, but I won't criticize Where the Heart Is too much more. For what it is and when it was popular, it's an okay book and I will happily leave it at that. 3/5 stars.