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Made in the U.S.A., by Billie Letts (Read by Cassandra Morris)

Lutie McFee, while helping herself to samples -- aka shoplifting -- in Wal-Mart, has no idea that her difficult life is about to become almost impossible. Fifteen-year-old Flutie and her little brother, Fate, were living with their father's ex-girlfriend, Floy, after he abandoned the motherless children. At 300 pounds, Floy wasn't in the best of health, and when she drops dead at the check stand in Wal-Mart, Flutie and Fate evade child protection services, steal Floy's car, and take off for Las Vegas to look for their father. The tragedies of the misadventures of the two children escalate from robbery to abuse to battery. No matter the circumstances, they find ways to overcome their hardships and survive the terrors of living on the streets of Las Vegas. Just when it seems that their luck has run out, a mysterious stranger intercedes and dreams they didn't even know they dreamed begin to come true.

Billie Letts knows how to tell a story that is at times heartbreaking, but it is ultimately life-affirming. The dangerous and miserable situations that Flutie and Fate find themselves in seem painfully realistic, thanks to Letts' vivid descriptions of homelessness. It's difficult to follow Flutie through her introduction to drugs and pornography, but it's even more heartrending to watch the brilliant little boy, Fate, try to take care of his big sister, putting his dreams of books and school and learning aside.

Cassandra Morris' narration is masterful. She captures the poignancy of the children's desperate existence and the bravado of their determination to survive. She imbues Flutie with just the right air of defiance and Fate with the tenderness of innocence and truth.

Thankfully, the sadness in the beginning of this book gives way to wonderful, warm situations and relationships for Flutie and Fate. It's a credit to Letts that she can turn tragic events into a hopeful story of dreams come true, even under the most difficult circumstances. This is a magical story that will reaffirm the healing power of accepting and giving love no matter how unlikely the situation. With Letts' charming story and Morris' melodic narration, Made in the U.S.A. is like an extended audio greeting card.

Ruth Mormon

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