“Little Faith,” By Nickolas Butler, Ecco/Harper Collins Publishers, 2019
Does God really exist? Why would a loving God take the life of a child? Can the power of prayer provide healing to those who are sick?
These and other questions of faith are explored in this novel by Nickolas Butler, “Little Faith.”
Lyle Hovde has had a relatively good life. Now in semi-retirement, he enjoys a good marriage and companionship with lifelong friends in a small town in Wisconsin. However, in matters of religious faith, things are not as easy for Lyle.
Following the tragic death of his infant son, Lyle has doubts about the existence of God and about the power of prayer. A lifelong Christian, he regularly attends the Lutheran church in the small Wisconsin town where he lives with his wife, Peg. But that attendance is partly out of a lifelong habit and, in part, because his childhood friend, Charley, is the minister. However, this lack of faith comes to a head when his estranged daughter, Shiloh, comes back into the lives of Lyle and his wife, Peg, bringing their 5-year-old grandson with her.
Lyle has a loving relationship with Isaac, possibly seeing him as a replacement for his own son, lost so many years ago. Shiloh, which means peace, brought a sense of peace to her parents when she came into their lives as an infant needed a family. But now, as an adult, Shiloh, is a member of a cult-like church with extreme beliefs from a nearby city, and more importantly, involved with their charismatic preacher.
To work on rebuilding their relationship with their daughter and remain in the life of their grandson, Lyle and Peg begin to attend their daughter’s church. As they become more involved in the life of the church, they begin to see that all is not well within the church and worry about their daughter and grandson, the latter of whom the preacher believes has the power to heal.
Faced with the possibility of again becoming estranged from their daughter and at risk of having their grandson taken away from them, Lyle and Peg struggle with whether or not they should intervene. However, once they believe that their beloved grandson is in mortal danger, Lyle takes action that may cause irreparable harm to his relationship with his daughter.
Prompted by the death of a young girl, Butler explores the controversy of faith healing versus medical science. In this novel, Butler has crafted a compelling intergenerational story that unfolds over a year.
A bestselling author, Butler wrote “The Hearts of Men” along with several volumes of short stories and poetry. More information on Butler and his writing, along with a recording of Butler reading the first chapter of “Little Faith,” may be found at nickolasbutler.com. An interview with Butler was broadcast on Milwaukee’s NPR station, www.wuwm.com/post/nickolas-butlers-little-faith-addresses-organized-religion-nature-small-town-wisconsin#stream/0.