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Poignant novel set in Wisconsin

21st January 2020

Little Faith by Nickolas Butler, poignant novel set in Wisconsin.Poignant novel set in Wisconsin

Shortlisted for The Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards “Fiction, With a Sense of Place” 2020.

Set in the fictional town of Redford, Wisconsin. Peg and Lisle are hard working folk who, way back, lost their baby son, Peter. They found a lot of succour and support from the local community and gradually learned to accommodate the terrible trauma and to move on as best they could. It pretty much killed Lisle’s faith.

Shiloh, their adopted daughter is now back living with them. She has brought with her, her 5 year old son Isaac, on whom Lisle in particular dotes. Gradually, however, the couple discovers that all is once again not well in their carefully ordered and relatively quiet world. Shiloh has become involved with charismatic Pastor Steven, leader of an extremist church in the nearby town. Try as they might to accept and understand her new found commitment, what they observe truly unsettles them.

Their fears are grounded when they encourage the two to take a few days away together, whilst they look after Isaac. He becomes ill and his illness become the focus of family fracture. Shiloh – presumably under svengali influence – breaks contact with her adoptive parents until they feel they must dance to her tune in order to have access to their grandson. They must embrace the teachings of Steven and his belief that Isaac is a gifted child who is a healer.

Lisle and Peg fear for Isaac’s well-being and thus need to stay close. They therefore acquiesce to Shiloh’s demands as best they can. Grief at the loss of his little family as he knew it is compounded by the terminal diagnosis of his best friend.

The narrative is set over the period of one year, reflected in the seasonal changes of the apple orchard where Lisle works. Blossom, fruition and then dying down is the rhythmic pattern of life and for Lisle, this reliable nature soothes him until a cold spell threatens to kill off the ancient trees. His secure world is unraveling and nature mirrors his life …

The author sets his story in rural Wisconsin and the real sense of place rises from the pages. His depiction lends an atmospheric backdrop to a story that is about faith but it is also about what it means to be living in a community; it’s about family and care and about death. Beautifully written, this is a thoughtful novel that will linger.

If you loved Where the Crawdads Sing (set in North Carolina) by Delia Owens, then this may well fill that literary hole.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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