Review by New York Times Review
The protagonist of Butler's quiet novel counts himself a man pretty much satisfied with his life. In his mid-60s, Lyle Hovde still lives in the small Wisconsin town where he grew up; strolling through the cemetery, gazing at the graves of people he once knew, he feels "a deep and abiding unity and evenness, as if the volume in his life were suddenly dimmed down." Humble and contemplative, he enjoys his work tending an apple orchard, the company of a few old friends and a happy marriage. His daughter, Shiloh, a single mother, has come home to raise her son, Isaac, and Lyle dotes on the 5-year-old: "Oh he loved the boy; and that was all there was to it." His is a heart waiting to be broken and broken it will be. Although he still attends the local Lutheran church for the ritual and community, Lyle stopped believing in God years ago when his infant son died. A fissure opens between Lyle and Shiloh as she becomes increasingly devout, quoting Scripture, periodically dropping to her knees in prayer and frequenting sketchy start-up churches in strip malls. The fissure widens when she becomes romantically involved with Steven, a handsome and charismatic young pastor who preaches to a raucous congregation in an old movie theater, prowling the aisles "like a panther." Steven convinces Shiloh that little Isaac is a healer, capable of curing diseases with a laying on of hands - and he convinces Lyle that his daughter and grandson have fallen into the clutches of a dangerous confidence man. When Lyle won't embrace Steven's fiery brand of Christianity, Shiloh cuts off his contact with Isaac, precipitating a series of increasingly dire crises. With its focus on spirituality and reverence for the joys of everyday life, "Little Faith" calls to mind Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead," although Butler can't match Robinson's stately prose and evocations of inner grace.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [July 11, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review
Lyle Hovde has been looking forward to the peace and quiet of his golden years for a long time. He and his wife, Peg, appreciate the slow pace of life in rural Wisconsin, filling their days with well-worn routines and easygoing friendships. When their estranged daughter, Shiloh, comes back to town, they welcome her and her young son, Isaac, with open arms. Shiloh has caught the eye of a young, mercurial pastor and become involved with the radical church he leads, which bears no resemblance to the stoic and predictable services Lyle has attended for decades. When the pastor's extremist views put Isaac in danger, Lyle and Peg are forced to weigh their daughter's newfound faith and happiness against their grandson's well-being. Exploring the complexities of faith and family, Butler (The Hearts of Men, 2017) 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.--Stephanie Turza Copyright 2018 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In Butler's breathtaking yet devastating novel (following The Hearts of Men), a family is ripped apart and nearly destroyed when one of its own gets involved with a radical church. Set in a gorgeously rendered rural Wisconsin, the story unfolds over the course of a year, as 65-year-old Lyle and his wife, Peg, grow increasingly uneasy as they watch their once estranged adopted daughter, Shiloh, fall under the influence of-and eventually get engaged to-Steven, a charlatan disguised as a devout pastor and founder of the cultlike Coulee Lands Covenant. Their worry intensifies when Steven convinces Shiloh that Isaac, her six-year-old son from a previous relationship, is a faith healer and he uses Isaac's "gift" to attract new parishioners and solicit donations for the church. At first, Lyle-who has grappled with the existence of God ever since his infant son died-tries to accept the situation so as not to alienate his daughter again. But when Isaac is diagnosed with diabetes, and the boys' parents choose prayer instead of giving him access to medical treatment, even after he slips into a coma, Lyle intervenes. Butler weaves questions surrounding faith, regret, and whether it's possible to love unconditionally into every page of this potent book. Secondary plots, including Lyle's friend Hoot's slow decline from cancer, Shiloh's adoption story, and Peg and Lyle's early courtship, are brief but equally resonant. This is storytelling at its finest. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Lyle and Peg Hovde are a humble, salt-of-the-earth couple from rural Wisconsin who lost their son, Peter, when he was nine months old. This catastrophic event is still keenly felt decades later, when the action of this powerful novel begins. In the intervening years, they have adopted a young daughter, Shiloh, and raising her has proved extremely difficult. The willful and reckless Shiloh is now a mom herself and involved with an extremist church and its charismatic pastor. In the middle of it all is the vulnerable, innocent, five-year-old Isaac, Lyle and Peg's grandson, whom they adore. Shiloh has moved back home, but she is soon in bitter conflict with her parents, and the narrative traces the tragic arc of their discord. Butler (The Hearts of Men) skillfully handles the complicated-and heartbreaking-psychological and emotional complexities of this story, crafting a deeply moving novel about love, faith, and loss, and how the futures we imagine for ourselves as parents can be agonizingly different from the actual reality. Verdict A beautifully realized meditation on the nature of parenting and living in a perplexing (and often cruel) world. Enthusiastically recommended for parents and fans of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 9/17/18.]-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A heartland novel that evokes the possibility of everyday miracles.The third novel by Wisconsin author Butler (Beneath the Bonfire, 2015, etc.) shows that he knows this terrain inside out, in terms of tone and theme as well as geography. Nothing much happens in this small town in western Wisconsin, not far from the river that serves as the border with Minnesota, which attracts some tourism in the summer but otherwise seems to exist outside of time. The seasons change, but any other changes are probably for the worselocal businesses can't survive the competition of big-box stores, local kids move elsewhere when they grow up, local churches see their congregations dwindle. Sixty-five-year-old Lyle Hovde and his wife, Peg, have lived here all their lives; they were married in the same church where he was baptized and where he's sure his funeral will be. His friends have been friends since boyhood; he had the same job at an appliance store where he fixed what they sold until the store closed. Then he retired, or semiretired, as he found a new routine as the only employee at an apple orchard, where the aging owners are less concerned with making money than with being good stewards of the Earth. The novel is like a favorite flannel shirt, relaxed and comfortable, well-crafted even as it deals with issues of life and death, faith and doubt that Lyle somehow takes in stride. He and Peg lost their only child when he was just a few months old, a tragedy which shook his faith even as he maintained his rituals. He and Peg subsequently adopted a baby daughter, Shiloh, through what might seem in retrospect like a miracle (it certainly didn't seem to involve any of the complications and paperwork that adoptions typically involve). Shiloh was a rebellious child who left as soon as she could and has now returned home with her 5-year-old son, Isaac. Grandparenting gives Lyle another chance to experience what he missed with his own son, yet drama ensues when Shiloh falls for a charismatic evangelist who might be a cult leader (and he's a stranger to these parts, so he can't be much good). Though the plot builds toward a dramatic climax, it ends with more of a quiet epiphany.The novelist loves this land and these characters, with their enduring values amid a way of life that seems to be dying. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.