by Billie Letts
Warner Books, July 1, 2005
Billie Letts' newest book, Shoot the Moon, is a lot better than her first, the saccharine Where the Heart Is. Though the characters Letts follows through Shoot the Moon are from similar geographic and socioeconomic situations as those in Where the Heart Is, they are much better fleshed out and much easier to identify with, even if the plotline is similarly unusual. Whereas I spent most of Where the Heart Is irritated with the characters' and plotline's sillyness, I was cautiously enamored with both in Shoot the Moon.
The basic premise of the novel is the return of a man, Nicky Jack Harjo, to the small Oklahoma town of his birth. The twist is that Harjo has no idea he was born there, and knows nothing about the circumstances of his disappearance from the town at the age of 10 months. What unfolds is the reopening of the nearly 30 year-old murder case of Harjo's mother. While unravelling the mystery, Harjo befriends several townspeople, including some of his long-lost family.
This is not great literature. It's a sweet and strange story, kept exciting by the element of mystery. It's a good airplane read, which is where I read it. Go into it with those expectations, and you shouldn't be disappointed.