Andrea reviews MADE IN THE U.S.A.:  a Novel by Billie Letts, 978-0-446-52901-3, Hatchette Book Group, 2008, 355 pages.  This is the story of fifteen-year-old, Lutie, and her 11-year-old brother, Fate. At the beginning of the novel, the siblings are in Wal-Mart with their obese, downtrodden and impatient caregiver, Floy. As Lutie explains, their dad left them with Floy when he took off and because he never married Floy, she’s not really their stepmother or any other relation to them. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Floy drops dead of a heart attack while she at the checkout counter.  Lutie is street smart enough to know children’s services will separate her and Fate and put them in foster homes if it is discovered the two don’t have a legal guardian at home.

The two of them pack up their stuff from their trailer and head for Las Vegas in Floy’s car. After all, that’s where their dad is, right? Wrong, of course.

Running across all kinds of shady characters on the ride from Arizona and on the Vegas strip, Lutie realizes her street smarts and quick thinking might be the only things that keep her and Fate alive. Many nights the two sleep in the old Pontiac and eat the free meals the shelter provides. While Lutie has gained employment by hustling a fake id, Fate keeps busy by going to the library. He also turns in lost golf balls and recyclables for cash. It’s not much but he does help supplement Lutie’s meager wages. The two quickly realize they have to rely on the other to survive.

This is a story about choices. Every decision Lutie makes, whether it is good or not, is going to affect her little brother. The two have no other real biological family to speak of but they must rely on the kindness of strangers if they will make it out of their wallowing existence. It’s your choice who let into your life like family or friends, but just know the choices you make affect everyone else around you.