Butler, Nickolas. “Little Faith”, Ecco, 2019.
Lyle Hovde lives a fairly comfortable and content life in rural Wisconsin with his wife, Peg. His daughter Shiloh daughter, Shiloh, has finally come home and with her is her six-year-old son and Lyle’s grandson, Isaac. Shiloh had been through a troubled adolescence an estrangement from her parents and while Lyle is thrilled to have his whole family reunited, he’s also uneasy. While she was away, Shiloh had become deeply involved with an extremist church, and the devout pastor who is now courting her is totally convinced that Isaac has the spiritual ability to heal the sick.
This sparks Lyle to deal with his own faith (or lack of faith) and he soon becomes torn between his unease about the church and his desire to keep his daughter and grandson in his life. However, when the church’s radical belief system threatens Isaac’s safety, Lyle must make a decision which could change his family forever.
The novel takes place over a year and is quite a fascinating and powerful read. This is an intergenerational novel about family and community and the ways in which belief is both formed and shaken and the extremes we go to protect our own. I was so pulled into the story that I read all night. Not only was the plot thought provoking and well developed but the descriptions of the farmlands were wonderful and the characters were well drawn. The underlying concern for Shiloh and Isaac’s well being by Lyle made us worry as well. Religion is something that can be both helpful and a disaster. We have seen too many times how people have been told by their religion to behave irrationally and we have sects that have destroyed their memberships.
I understand that the character of Lyle is based on Butler’s own father-in-law. Lyle is a positive person who loves well as he tries to make the world a better place for everyone. In no way is this novel anti-religion. Rather, it tries to show us what is good in this world and how a fanatical religion can hurt all that we have and love.