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One Good Hustle [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Billie Livingston
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 24 2012

From award-winning writer Billie Livingston, an unsparing novel of loyalty and survival that is fierce, sharp and funny even when it's breaking your heart.
The child of 2 con artists, 16-year-old Sammie Bell always prided herself on knowing the score. But now she finds herself backed into a corner. After a hustle gone dangerously wrong, her mother, Marlene, is sliding into an abyss of alcoholic depression, spending her days fantasizing aloud about death--a goal Sammie is tempted to help her accomplish. Horrified by the appeal of this, Sammie packs a bag and leaves her mother to her own devices.
With her father missing in action, she has nowhere else to go but the home of a friend with 2 parents who seem to actually love their daughter and each other--and who awkwardly try to extend some semblance of family to Sammie. Throughout a long summer of crisis among the normals, Sammie is torn between her longing for the approval of the con-man father she was named for and her desire for the "weird, spearmint-fresh feeling" of life in the straight world. Sammie wants to be normal but fears that where she comes from makes that beyond the realm of possibility.
One Good Hustle chronicles 2 months in Sammie Bell's struggle with her dread that she is somehow doomed genetically to be just another hustler.

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Product Description



“You must read Billie Livingston…. Sammie is smart, mouthy, literate and articulate, and she compels you to listen.”
The Globe and Mail
“Very involving…. Livingstone portrays Sammie’s internal conflict with devastating precision…. Great storytelling.”
NOW (Toronto) NNNN
“I loved, just loved One Good Hustle.”
—Susie Moloney, Numéro Cinq
“First-rate storytelling.”
The Georgia Straight
“Billie Livingston has the knack of portraying teenage life in a way that is unerring and intimate.”
Toronto Star

“Entertaining, thoughtful & perfectly crass from page 1, character is steady & strong — Written feverishly: a primal scream.”
The One Line Review
“Stuck in a rough hustle, the sensitive daughter of two con artists uses badass honesty and wit to survive. Funny, sharp and tender, One Good Hustle delivers a gritty page-turner about what happens when love and loyalty collide with self-preservation.”
—Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach and Blood Sports

“What a joy to read a work so brave and unsettling. Billie Livingston holds nothing back: the terrors of teenage life; the charm of criminals; and the innocence and anger of girls on the run. Sammie Bell is Holden Caulfield, if he was born on the wrong side of the tracks and wandering through Vancouver streets.”
—Rebecca Godfrey, author of The Torn Skirt and Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk

“In One Good Hustle, Billie Livingston once again masterfully deploys her edgy wit to create a perfectly pitched adolescent voice, an unforgettable heroine whose scam artist toughness is matched only by her yearning for authenticity. A great read from start to finish.”
—Lilian Nattel, author of Web of Angels

About the Author

Billie Livingston published her critically acclaimed first novel, Going Down Swinging, in 2000. Her first book of poetry, The Chick at the Back of the Church was a finalist for the Pat Lowther Award. Her second novel, Cease to Blush, was a Globe and Mail Best Book and her story collection, Greedy Little Eyes, was the winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award as well the CBC’s inaugural Bookie Award for short fiction.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... Aug. 18 2012
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
In her third novel, Billie Livingston transports the reader to 1980s Burnaby, B.C. and chronicles a difficult summer in the life of Sammie Bell. This razor-tongued 16-year-old has two con artists for parents: an absent, card shark father and a depressed, suicidal, alcoholic mother. When Sammie leaves her mom to stay with her friend, Jill, she finds herself caught between the Christian ideals of her pseudo–foster family and the shady but alluring world of her hustler parents and their ramshackle group of so-called friends.

Livingston has created nuanced, multi-dimensional characters who at once display abstinence, lawlessness, caring, hypocrisy, loyalty and flaw. Sammie herself has a tough but sensitive, sarcastic but sweet voice, which lingers after the book ends. Apart from a climactic scene that wraps up too quickly, "One Good Hustle" makes for an enjoyable, fast and entertaining read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book! Aug. 3 2012
Billie Livingston's work always reminds me of the great Kent Haruf. The beautiful simplicity and heartbreakingly accurate arrow to the heart, is omnipresent in all her work, and One Good Hustle is no exception. In this, her fourth book, she gives us Marlene and Sammie, mother and daughter, tied together with fierce loyalty and secret criminality. The story starts with Sammie taking a little respite from the bitter responsibility that is her mother. Like a lot of daughters, she has great hopes that her father will somehow change and become the hero in the story. Sammie has a foot in two worlds, and is trying to figure out where she belongs.

The "one good hustle" of the title ties in nicely with the ending which is in no way pat or even necessarily happy, but is very satisfying. The kind of book you wish didn't end. As with Going Down Swinging and Cease to Blush, this is book I'll probably read again. And probably again. Maybe that's Livingston's best hustle, eh?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hustle is Good Indeed!! Aug. 27 2012
By Williamson - Published on
A while back, a friend bamboozled me into reading a book I had no interest in reading. The book was, "Going Down Swinging," the author, Billie Livingston. Okay, I admit - my friend did me a huge favor - and never fails to remind me of it. Since then, I've read "Cease To Blush" and "Greedy Little Eyes,"by the same author. Simply put, Livingston has become one of my favorite writers. And, I've wondered - given the critical acclaim her work receives - why she hasn't yet been awarded one of the major prizes given to people doing what she does. So, I read some of her contemporaries who have been so honored. Thus far, all seem clearly talented, competent - even evince moments of greatness. But, in my admittedly unprofessional view, none come close to the degree of fullness Livingston achieves -- the dimensionality, the humanity, the soul. She has a commanding talent, unaffected (a breath of fresh air in itself!) - keenly intelligent, deeply compassionate, and maybe most impressively - often funny and poignant in the same moment. So, I'm happy to report that with, "One Good Hustle," Livingston remains on track, continuing to gain momentum. As with each of the other books, this is a story I could almost swear I'd seen, rather than read - with characters (eg, the precious Sammie Bell) that feel like people I've really met, spent important time with, and miss now that they're no longer "here."
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it Oct. 26 2013
By Maia - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I absolutely loved Billie Livingston's latest - lyrical, poetic and touching. I would recommend to anyone looking for a great read.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Writing, but slow plot July 25 2012
By Abria @ Read. Write. Discuss. - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
One Good Hustle is set in Vancouver in the 1980s, after Sammie, the daughter of two hustlers, has left home to stay with a friend. Her home life is in shambles, her father is absent, and so-called friends do her family more harm than good. Living with her friend Jill and Jill's parents, Ruby and Lou, Sammie feels more than ever like a square peg in a round hole. Making matters simultaneously better and worse is love interest Drew, a Christian boy that Sammie met through a youth group. Drew treats Sammie better than anyone else ever has, but between her past and her present, she doesn't feel that she deserves his kindness, much less his affection.

I rated One Good Hustle three stars because the writing is good. Livingston creates well-paced dialogue and brings characters to life with just the right amount of description. What kept this from being a five-star book, in my opinion, was the lack of tension and discernible plot. One Good Hustle reads more like a character study than a novel, with Sammie moving passively from one action to another, always caught between the decisions of other people, to the flashbacks of Sammie's childhood in which she was, once again, a pawn. The main character doesn't drive the action, and when she tries, she feels bad about what she does or is frustrated in her efforts. I had no idea where the novel was going -- toward romance with Drew? Reconciliation with her parents? A better lifestyle? A rejection of Jill, Ruby and Lou's lifestyle? This is a novel that accumulates; it does not build.

While I was disappointed with the plot, that doesn't mean that others won't get a thrill out of this book. If you grew up in or love the 80s, you'll love all the cultural and musical references. This New Adult coming-of-age story is certainly original, its characters unforgettable, and the dialogue is written with flavourful flare.

(I received an advance copy of this novel via NetGalley).
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