Updated: Mar 29, 2020
It is so enjoyable to read a book that is set in your hometown or state. As I read Little Faith by Nickolas Butler, I kept reading parts out loud, to my husband, that referenced landmarks we knew. I am not sure he thought it was as fascinating as I did, but it is exciting when a book references places you have been or concepts you know about. I reached out to Nickolas Butler when Little Faith hit the shelves and he sent me a copy to read and review. Thank you, Nickolas Butler! His writing is descriptive and I could imagine every scene he mentioned. Set in small town Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River, I could almost pin point the town of Redford, WI on a map. When Butler described the different types of apples in the orchard, I could imagine walking through the lines of trees and snagging a fresh apple off a branch, biting into it's crunchy flesh. It was such an enjoyable book to read and the story left me processing it for days afterwards. I took a few days to reflect on the book before writing about it.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this literary fiction novel, set in rural Wisconsin, that follows Lyle Hovde and his family. Lyle is your typical Midwestern husband, who spends his days working at a local apple orchard to provide for his wife, Peg, and support his daughter, Shiloh, and her son, Isaac, who both live with them. Shiloh becomes heavily involved in an extremist church and is led to believe that her son, Isaac, has healing powers. She becomes enamored with the leader of the church and her beliefs put Isaac in danger when he is diagnosed with diabetes and she believes praying and faith, rather than medical attention, will heal him. It is based on a true story, where a family in Wisconsin did not seek medical attention for their daughter, and she ended up dying from their neglect and deluded religious beliefs that praying would heal her.
Lyle is also grappling with the recent cancer diagnosis of his best friend, Hoot. Between watching his best friend's health slowly decline, to watching his daughter become more and more wrapped up in her church's beliefs, Lyle feels hopeless and faithless. Who is to say that a prayer will help anything? That is what Lyle struggles with. Throughout the story, Lyle starts to discover what faith means to him and how it can help the people around him. If praying and hoping that his best friend lives a few days longer actually helps, because his friend sees the hope in his eyes, what does it hurt to try? Lyle converses with the local pastor, who happens to also be a friend, and learns what his truth beliefs are and finds faith in his own way.
Religion is a huge topic in this book, and being from Wisconsin myself, it is something that you are immersed in, even if your family was not active in a church. There is a saying that there are more bars than churches in Wisconsin, and let me tell you, there are quite a few churches. I grew up in a religious family where religion was the basis and justification for any decisions, so I could relate to several parts of this book. Religion in the Midwest is a cornerstone to most families and I enjoyed how this book talked about faith and religion. Lyle grapples with his faith throughout the entire book. Lyle and Peg had a son who passed away as an infant. Since then, Lyle has doubt in his heart for any sort of higher power. He attends church regularly with Peg, but goes along with the motions and questions everything. He finds it hard to believe that there is a greater good, when something as horrible as a child passing away can happen.
Lyle battles with his own faith, while trying to help Shiloh overcome the pull of her new church, keep Isaac safe, and help his friend through his cancer diagnosis. What is faith, other than believing in something bigger than yourself? Whether it has religious or more extensional connotations. The concept that changing your perception and thoughts can change an outcome is powerful, and one that Lyle comes to believe. I thought this novel fell under the literary fiction category because it was more than a story of a family that was wrapped up in an extremist church, it had a deeper message about life, faith, family, friendship and destiny.
I gave Little Faith ★★★★ . I loved the story and religious connotations and it was exciting to read a book by a local author. Nickolas Butler is doing a reading at my local public library and I am looking forward to attending and supporting a Wisco author.