[New in Review] One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston

Author: Billie Livingston

Publisher: Random House Canada

Date Published: July 24th, 2012

Format: Trade Paperback

Source: Own copy


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.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 1.5



To be honest the cover along with the title was what drew me to the book in the first place. Doesn’t it at least make you curious to check the synopsis?

The Writing Score: 3 out of 5

Recommendation: Casual Perusal

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable female protagonist

Rating: 3 out of 5


I am always a fan of reading stories that feature strong female protagonists. Though I was not fond of Sam or “Sammie” in One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston, I did find her character to be quite refreshing. I loved that Sammie always stuck to what she believed in, never caving into pressure from others no matter what kind of situation she was in. And while she is not without her flaws, she is most certainly a very interesting protagonist. Other than Sammie, I also thought the character of her mother was well written. The struggles she faced were realistic and her actions though not necessarily healthy or right were plausible for someone in her circumstance. I was not a fan of the other characters in the book, although I suspect it may be because the story is told from Sammie’s point of view so we see them through her eyes.

Livingston’s writing is simple yet sophisticated, and she does not shy away from discussing the harsh realities of life. From suicide to alcoholism to what’s it like to have to be on social welfare, she really does not hold back anything. That part of the plot was what I enjoyed the most. In addition learning about the different hustles that have been pulled by Sammie’s parents was quite fascinating. This was mostly because it is completely different from the environment that I was raised in. Still if there is one thing I have in common with Sammie it is that I know what it feels like to believe in someone so much no matter how many times they let you down.

The only issue I really have with this book is the ending. To me it left me feeling unsatisfied as there were many loose ends that were left hanging. However this may be because as indicated in the synopsis, the book covers two months in Sammie’s life. Still this was a book that got me completely immersed in the character’s story and I would not object to reading more about any adventures that Sammie might have in the future. Overall this was an entertaining read that will for sure draw you in.

The opinions expressed in this review are my own; I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review.

– Linh

4 thoughts on “[New in Review] One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston

  1. Your review has made me really curious about this book. It sounds interesting and I like flawed but strong protagonists. Plus the cover and title are really enticing!

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