Made in the U.S.A.

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Overview

Luttie McFee's history has taught her to avoid attachments...to people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father long gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, 15-year-old Luttie lives in the god-forsaken town of Yankton, South Dakota with her nine-year-old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the 300-pound ex-girlfriend of her father. While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows and worrying about global warming and the ...
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Overview

Luttie McFee's history has taught her to avoid attachments...to people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father long gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, 15-year-old Luttie lives in the god-forsaken town of Yankton, South Dakota with her nine-year-old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the 300-pound ex-girlfriend of her father. While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows and worrying about global warming and the endangerment of pandas. As if their life is not dismal enough, one day, while shopping in their local Wal-Mart, Floy keels over and the two motherless kids are suddenly faced with the choice of becoming wards of the state or hightailing it out of town in Floy's old Pontiac. Choosing the latter, they head off to Las Vegas in search of a father who has no known address, no phone number and, clearly, no interest in the kids he left behind.

MADE IN THE USA is the alternately heartbreaking and life-affirming story of two gutsy children who must discover how cruel, unfair and frightening the world is before they come to a place they can finally call home.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a second Letts title where a pivotal event occurs at a Wal-Mart (the first was the author's bestseller Where the Heart Is), two long-neglected kids have to fend for themselves—and quickly. After their father's ex-girlfriend, Floy, who is their guardian, drops dead at the chain's Spearfish, S.D., megastore, 15-year-old Lutie McFee persuades her 11-year-old brother, Fate, to take off in Floy's Pontiac to their long-gone dad's last known address, a fleabag hotel in Las Vegas. There, they discover discouraging secrets about their father's whereabouts. Lutie gets fake working papers and a string of dead-end jobs. But with the threat of foster care looming, Lutie and trivia-mad Fate are soon at the mercy of child predators. Letts (whose son Tracy won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama) manages this potentially maudlin or lurid material with a frank lyricism, delivering a heartbreaking tale about love, loss and survival that will stick with the reader long after the last page is turned. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School

After the sudden death of Floy, her father's 300-pound girlfriend, 15-year-old Lutie McFee flees Spearfish, SD, with her 11-year-old brother, Fate. With only an apartment address to guide them, the siblings head toward Las Vegas in Floy's Pontiac, in search of the father they haven't seen or heard from in a year. Lutie's defiant personality lands the pair in a number of dangerous and precarious situations. However, her equally dominant determination drives her to do almost anything to protect her intellectual and withdrawn brother. When she is almost beaten to death during a robbery, a mysterious protector, Juan Vargas, comes to their aid. After getting medical treatment for her, Juan transports Lutie and Fate to his hometown in Hugo, OK. While Fate discovers a world of wonder and happiness, Lutie struggles to accept the support that is being offered to her. The ending, while unlikely, is satisfying and emotionally rewarding. Teens will immediately be drawn into the story by Lutie's feisty personality as well as the adventure, and ultimate hardship, of living by your wits. Recommend this one to those who enjoy gutsy protagonists, gritty plotlines, and fairy-tale endings.-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD

Kirkus Reviews
Letts (Shoot the Moon, 2004, etc.) returns with another uplifting tearjerker, this time about an orphaned brother and sister who face travail before finding love and acceptance within an Oklahoma circus family. Fifteen-year-old Lutie McFee's mother is long dead. Her alcoholic father has decamped to Las Vegas, leaving Lutie and her 11-year-old brother Fate in the care of his latest girlfriend Floy. When Floy drops dead at Wal-Mart, tough but lovable Lutie and precocious but friendless Fate head to Vegas to find their father. By the time they arrive and discover he's died in prison, they're flat broke. Lutie earns money any way she can, including posing for porn, while Fate sells lost golf balls when he's not hanging around the library or the elementary school he hopes to attend. After a rape and a few other humiliations, Lutie, who has also developed a cocaine habit, is robbed and badly beaten. Fortunately, Lutie and Fate have a guardian angel. Juan Vargas, who has been helping them anonymously since their arrival, now saves Lutie. A former aerialist with Cirque de Soleil until a fall ended his career and left him disabled, Juan drives the McFees to Oklahoma where his family runs a circus. Juan has his own emotional baggage; having left Vargas Brothers Circus years earlier, he never returned to face his heartbroken father. Instead, after his accident, Juan drifted into addiction until joining AA (which he describes glowingly although he never attends meetings). In Oklahoma, Fate almost immediately feels at home, making his first real friend and learning to fish. Recuperating from her attack, Lutie at first resists the care offered by Juan's grandmother Mama Sim, but once she reveals toMama Sim her deepest, guiltiest (most trite) secret, Lutie is emotionally ready to accept the love the Vargas family offers. And through Lutie's talent as an aerialist, Juan finds his own way back into the family fold. So much travail, so much uplift! So much phony plotting and superficial characterization. Agent: Lisa Callamaro/Lisa Callamaro Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446505499
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/19/2008
  • Edition description: Large Type
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 7.16 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Billie Letts is the author of numerous highly acclaimed short stories, screenplays and three beloved novels. A former University professor, she lives in Oklahoma.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 61 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(20)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(17)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 61 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2008

    Made a reader out of me

    I am not a reader. I have about a dozen half read books at home. Got this one for a road trip and could not put it down. hate to admit I related to the story a little bit. The author describes the characters so well I felt like I knew them. I wanted to live with the circus family. But I have no intentions of visiting Vegas. :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2008

    Another Great Book!

    I just finished reading 'Made in the USA' and put it on the same pedestal as 'Where the Heart Is.' I have always found her books interesting and on a level that most people can relate to and enjoy. All of Ms. Letts' books have been very enjoyable! I've lived in Oklahoma all my life but have never been to Hugo however, it is now on my list of places to go--especially to the cemetery!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    interesting character driven contemporary tale

    In Spearfish, South Dakota, with their mother long dead, the McFee siblings teenage Lutie and preadolescent Fate live with three hundred plus pounds Floy Satterfield their runaway father¿s former girlfriend. However, their lives take a spin when their guardian drops dead at the local megastore. Lutie, who enjoys shoplifting for fun ever since she was booted from the high school gymnastics team due to unfair influences, persuades her eleven year old brother to give up the TV shows and global warming because they have two choices: flee in Floy¿s ancient car or allow the state to place them. They decide to find their wastrel dad whose last known address is Las Vegas with no further specificity except some dive hotel. --- In Las Vegas, they begin to learn nasty truths re their father and prison, and where he might be which if true will prove he is beyond their reach. Fifteen year old Lutie obtains fake working papers and dead-end jobs so she and her brother have food and shelter of sorts. However, increasingly their choices seem to be foster care or the street sharks including avaricious child molesters, rapists, drug addicts and other abusers. However, former aerialist Juan Vargas ¿adopts¿ the pair as his redemption and takes them to his family in Oklahoma where they run the Vargas Brothers Circus. Juan carries guilt, but his grandma has love for all three seemingly losers that might help each find sanctuary if they reach out to her and one another. --- Although at times diving too deep into soap opera territory, MADE IN THE U.S.A. is an interesting character driven contemporary tale that argues it takes a village to raise children. Readers will feel for the McFee sibs, who are neglected while their guardian lived and after she dies make questionable decisions more out of fear. What happens to them especially Lutie in Vegas shows the real sinful underbelly of the city. Although Oklahoma turns out to perfect to be realistic, fans will soar with Lutie, play trivia with Fate and hope Juan forgives himself as they with grandma try to become a family. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2008

    This book was great!

    From the very beginning, I could not put this book down. I love her style and her characters come alive for me. Highly recommended! I hope she is in the process of writing another one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2014

    Map of world

    Result1:USA. Result 2:map. Result3:wargrounds. Rseult4:great britain. Result5:russia. Result6:china. Result7:canada. Result8:middle east(saudia arabia, iran,iraq,israel). Result9:germany. Other results you claim for other countries.

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  • Posted March 25, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Made in the U.S.A. is not an easy book to read. Lutie and Fate

    Made in the U.S.A. is not an easy book to read. Lutie and Fate are a brother and sister to whom life has not been kind. Despite Lutie's best efforts to keep herself and her little brother safe, things keep going wrong. Las Vegas is definitely no place for kids!

    The tension builds as Lutie keeps making the wrong decisions. Those she thinks are friends may not be. But she and Fate are homeless and she will do almost anything to survive.

    The story is written well, though rather dark. Where the kids end up is almost too fantastical for a believable ending. Still, Letts did show Lutie struggling to deal with the things she was forced to do. It stayed a few degrees away from a fairy tale ending which kept the book more believable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    great read

    Very entertaining

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Good fun read

    I enjoy Billie Letts and her characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    Excellent!!!

    I am a huuuge fan of Billie Letts. I've read all of her books and loved them all, but this one ties with Where the Heart Is as my favorite. It was darker and grittier than her other books but was so heartwarming and beautiful at the same time. Would highly recommend this book. I never wanted it to end and I know the characters will stick with me for a long time to come.

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    This was a good read.

    Just finish this book. It was better than I thought it was going to be. Going to go see what I can read next.

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  • Posted May 14, 2011

    Enjoyed!

    It was kind of slow at first, but picked up. Overall I enjoyed it. It was a good short read.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    rather trite, but entertaining nonetheless

    I was disappointed in Made in the USA. I have read Honk and Holler Opening Soon more times than I can count and respect Billie Letts' talent for infusing her characters with an authentic voice. In H&HOS, people's problems don't magically evaporate with a kind word or psychological insight, yet they carry on - as real people sometimes can. Made in the USA ends like it was finished at 5 a.m. the morning of a deadline. The main character suddenly stops speaking like a teenager and more like ... well, I don't know anyone who speaks like that! BUT, I did read this book in two sittings, so I can't say it wasn't entertaining!

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    Touching

    This was just a good story of a brother and sister left alone, from a rough family life, and believe they know how to find the American dream. They have nothing to lose, and you will be pulling for them to make it somehow, and hoping they find a family. Very good Billie Letts!

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    My favorite Billie Letts book!

    I loved this! Great plot, had all , dramatic, tragic, touching, heart warming, and thrilling qualities. I hope to see it in film. It was hard reading the parts in Las Vegas, especially what happened to Lutie, but that is reallity. Hopefully this book will wake up some politicians to try to put an end to this. I felt the change from Vegas to the circus world helped bring it out of such a dark trend, to show there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    A decent read

    I found the characters a little one dimensional and predictable. I felt what each learns about what family means a redeeming aspect of the book. The story is engaging, though not one I couldn't put down. The author's question and answer section after the reading guide I found off-putting and actually took away from what was "learned" in the book. Overall, a decent read, but not a must read.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    BILLIE DID IT AGAIN

    I LOVE HER WRITING STYLE EVER SINCE I READ WHERE THE HEART IS.I WAS HOOKED.I HAVE READ ALL HER BOOKS.PLEASE BILLIE WRITE MORE.THIS BOOK WAS VERY GOOD I LOVED FOLLOWING THE STORY OF LUTIE AND FATE.

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  • Posted August 11, 2009

    Better than Where the Heart is, but still not her best

    Billie Letts has a flair for creating lovable, memorable characters and she does it again in Made in the USA, but I don't think it is her best novel.

    The novel follows the charcters of Lutie and Fate Mcfee and their struggle for survival. They are american born and bred and have fallen upon hard times. They are now homeless, underage children trying to survive on the streets of Las Vegas. This part of the novel was wonderful. Even though we may cringe at the experiences and choices that Lutie makes, they are a realistic commentary about life on the American streets.

    The part that I find a stretch, is when Lutie and Fate meet Juan. I don't think this part worked all that well even though I really like Juan and the characters that we are introduced through him. Can't go into detail without giving too much away and I hate when people do that. Let's just say I think it is an important aspect to the novel that Juan is not from America.

    It was worth the read, but I still think Billie Lett's Honk and Holler is better.


    More of my book reviews at www.dustjacketreview.com (sbarranca)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    Not worth it.

    Couldn't identify with the characters or story. They weren't likable main characters.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointed

    I love Billie Letts. I think she is a wonderful author, but I think she dropped the ball on this book. It is just ok. The characters are nothing special. In fact, I despised the main character and her selfish ways and was so glad when the story would focus on someone else. I really honestly hated some of the main characters. The ones I liked didn't come till later, and I almost gave up on the book before I got to them. The saving grace in the beginning is the the brother, Fate. If you love the down home, small town feel of Billie Letts books, then this is not for you. I will continue reading her books; I just hope none are ever as disappointing as this one.

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  • Posted May 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Brought tears to my eyes

    "Made in the USA" is a touching story about Lutie McFee and her brother Fate and how they try and survive in Las Vegas after the death of the woman who was taking care of them. Lutie thinks she knows all about how to endure the cruel world which is now her home. I have never any other books by Billie Letts, and am not going to let some of the negative reviews I have come across to affect my feelings. This story brought tears to my eyes, and I was rooting for the kids. Is it believable, maybe, maybe not? I just know that I loved the book.

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