March 2019 Indie Next List
— Susan Murphy, Pages Bookshop, Detroit, MI
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In this moving new novel from celebrated author Nickolas Butler, a Wisconsin family grapples with the power and limitations of faith when one of their own falls under the influence of a radical church
Lyle Hovde is at the onset of his golden years, living a mostly content life in rural Wisconsin with his wife, Peg, daughter, Shiloh, and six-year old grandson, Isaac. After a troubled adolescence and subsequent estrangement from her parents, Shiloh has finally come home. But while Lyle is thrilled to have his whole family reunited, he’s also uneasy: in Shiloh’s absence, she has become deeply involved with an extremist church, and the devout pastor courting her is convinced Isaac has the spiritual ability to heal the sick.
While reckoning with his own faith—or lack thereof—Lyle soon finds himself torn between his unease about the church and his desire to keep his daughter and grandson in his life. But when the church’s radical belief system threatens Isaac’s safety, Lyle is forced to make a decision from which the family may not recover.
Set over the course of one year and beautifully evoking the change of seasons, Little Faith is a powerful and deeply affecting intergenerational novel about family and community, the ways in which belief is both formed and shaken, and the lengths we go to protect our own.
Praise For Little Faith: A Novel…
— Wall Street Journal
“With its focus on spirituality and reverence for the joys of everyday life, ‘Little Faith’ calls to mind Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Gilead.’”
— New York Times Book Review
“[Peopled with] regular folks, behind whose plain-spoken reserve and dry humor beats the heart of the country, at once practical and passionate, poetic and earthbound.... Butler is very good at getting...the routines and rituals as subtly infused with personal history as with the changing of the seasons.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Butler blends a sweet situation — a grandfather’s love for his grandson — with a divisive religious conflict that could have life-altering consequences for that child.... Butler represents a continuum of believers and doubters.”
— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“A powerful story filled with deep emotion, no matter your religious proclivities.... [A] stark and honest discussion of faith and doubt.”
— Volume One
“Breathtaking yet devastating.... Butler weaves questions surrounding faith, regret, and whether it’s possible to love unconditionally into every page of this potent book.... This is storytelling at its finest.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Powerful.... [Butler] skillfully handles the complicated—and heartbreaking—psychological and emotional complexities of this story, crafting a deeply moving novel about love, faith, and loss.... A beautifully realized meditation on the nature of parenting and living in a perplexing (and often cruel) world.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“A heartland novel that evokes the possibility of everyday miracles.... Like a favorite flannel shirt, relaxed and comfortable, well-crafted even as it deals with issues of life and death, faith and doubt.... The novelist loves this land and these characters, with their enduring values.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Exploring the complexities of faith and family, Butler...also tackles the power and pitfalls of devout Christianity. Fans of Richard Russo and Jan Karon will appreciate Butler’s sense of place, which lets seasonal shifts and harvest cycles propel the novel forward. Little Faith is quietly and deeply moving.”
“A novel as tender and generous as any I’ve read. It’s a three a.m. I gotta get some sleep but can’t stop reading sorta book. Heart stoppingly good.”
— Willy Vlautin, author of Lean on Pete and Don’t Skip Out on Me
Ecco, 9780062469717, 336pp.
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
About the Author
Nickolas Butler was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison as well as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the author of the novel The Hearts of Men, the internationally bestselling and prizewinning novel Shotgun Lovesongs, and the acclaimed short story collection Beneath the Bonfire. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife and their two children.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Little Faith is a novel that confronts complex issues such as faith, spirituality, and the decline of organized religion. Could you relate with Lyle Hovde’s own struggles with faith and belief? Did the novel cause you to examine your own relationship with faith and religion?
2. What are your favorite works of fiction that embrace notions of faith, spirituality, and religion? What writers are known to explore these themes?
3. The author of Little Faith, Nickolas Butler, has cited Japanese fiction and poetry as major influences in his writing of this novel. In what ways does the reader encounter that Japanese influence?
4. Little Faith is a novel in which a grandparent is placed in the unenviable position of protecting a grandchild from the grandchild’s parent. How would you have reacted if you were placed in Lyle’s position? If you are a grandparent, what is the nature of your relationship to your adult child(ren)? To your grandchildren? Do you find yourself feeling critical of your child(ren)’s life choices? How they raise their children?
5. The ending of Little Faith could be construed as unresolved. Were you satisfied by the book’s ending? Do you need a book to end in such a way that you feel each narrative thread is resolved? What defines a successive ending to a novel?
6. What do you think happened to Hoot? To Isaac? To Shiloh? To Lyle and Peg?
7. Dreams play a somewhat crucial role in this novel. In your life, how do your perceive your dreams? Are they guideposts or omens for what is to come? Or something closer to nonsense?
8. The epigraph of Little Faith is a quote taken from an Annie Dillard novel. Do you pay attention to a book’s epigraphs? Have you read Annie Dillard before? Why did the author chose this particular epigraph? What does the epigraph promise about the fictional narrative that follows?
9. Little Faith is a novel inspired by actual events. Did the novel cause you to research the Kara Neumann case? Were you aware of other prayer-healing/faith-healing cases? Why did the author chose to inform the reader that the novel was inspired by actual events?
10. Throughout the novel, the author sprinkles certain references to songs or lyrics… In various interviews, Butler has discussed the importance of engaging a reader’s senses. In what ways could you hear the narrative? See it? Taste it? Touch it? Smell it?