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Little Faith is a work of fiction based off the real life case of Madeline Kara Neumann who died in Weston, Wisconsin from complications of undiagnosed juvenile diabetes. When she slipped into a coma, rather than take their daughter to a hospital, her parents prayed for her recovery. While this book is not a fictional retelling of that story, it does use the premise to explore the themes of family, faith, and love.
Little Faith is the story of Lyle Hovde, a man entering his “golden years” in rural Wisconsin. Lyle is semi-retired and lives with Peg, his wife of forty years. Their grown daughter has returned home with her own son, six year old Isaac. While Lyle is happy to have his grandson living with them, he is concerned about the devout faith of his daughter, a faith that has led her to join an extremist church and take up with the pastor – a man more snake-oil salesman than cleric.
Little Faith is told through the eyes of Lyle as he grapples with his own faith, a faith shaken by the sudden loss of his infant son decades earlier. He questions the extreme views of his daughter, especially her conviction that her son is a “healer,” and her belief that prayer and faith can cure whatever ails the human body. His faith is challenged further when his daughter’s beliefs threaten the life of his only grandson and she blames his lack of faith for her son’s illness.
Little Faith is a character study; the story of a year in a man’s life, divided into seasons, and the people who journey with him. It is a story of love, of family, of friendship, and of faith. It asks questions, but does not necessarily offer all the answers. It is a beautifully written book, peopled with characters you very much want to keep with you. Under Butler's deft hand these characters are complex, realistic, and likeable. If you have ever lived in the mid-west or in a small town, you will recognize them as people not unlike the ones you know. Butler makes you care about these people and what happens to them.
Little Faith is a quiet, but powerful book. The writing is both simple and elegant. Butler has done a fine job of telling a complex and emotional story in graceful and easy manner. His characters, especially the narrator, Lyle, are complex and fully formed. They are very human, dealing with very human issues while each, in their own way, try to make sense of themselves, life, and the complexities of relationships with themselves, each other, and the idea of the divine. This is a very enjoyable book and highly recommended.
This is one of those books where the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is particularly apt. Once the book has been read, the title makes sense, but before that it may be off-putting. Don’t let it be.
Chronicles of a Radical Hag is a novel that tells the stories of multiple people whose lives intersect, mostly through columnist Haze Evans, the “radical hag” in the title. The story of Haze Evans and her columns is the main vein running through the novel. Haze is the beloved, and occasionally controversial, columnist at the local paper The Granite Creek Gazette. She began her career as a young woman in the early 1960s and her first column appeared in 1964. She wrote her last column just before the 2016 election before being sidelined by a stroke. While she is in the hospital, the paper re-runs her past columns, mostly in chronological order, along with a sampling of reader responses. And recipes. In this way, we get to know Haze and all the people connected to her as it’s also a story about Susan McGrath, who inherited the paper from her grandfather William, Susan’s teenage son Sam who is working at the paper over the summer, Susan’s assistant Caroline, the newspaper’s receptionist Shelly, and Haze’s best friend Lois. Most of all it’s about all the people who are connected to one another through the Gazette and Haze Evans, about how words and ideas connect us to each other, how life connects us to each other, and how people aren’t always as they first seem.
Lorna Landvik has written a beautiful novel, a character study centered in a small Midwestern town peopled by wonderful people and Lorna ensures that her readers care about all of them.
In Beautiful Bad Annie Ward has written a compelling psychological thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train that explores themes of love, friendship, and family in all their permutations. What will someone do for love? What will they do in the name of friendship? How far will someone go to protect those they love? And how well do we really know the people who are closest to us?
Beautiful Bad weaves through time, exploring the story of Maddie, her best friend, Joanna, and the man they both fall for, Ian. Each is a damaged person in their own way, damaged by both circumstance and personal choices. Maddie is a teacher and travel writer / danger junkie after a near death experience in her youth. Joanna works for various non-profits aiding refugees in war torn countries and who suffers several personal losses. Ian is British military working as a bodyguard and, later, in private security, in the Balkans, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Alcoholism and PTSD are par for the course. Sometimes love and friendship can heal the broken spirit. Sometimes, too much damage can lead to toxic relationships and fatal consequences.
Beautiful Bad is a complex psychological thriller that weaves through time, hinting at all the possible ways people meeting through chance encounters can have an impact on one another that alters the lives of all involved. How love and friendship can go horribly wrong. How people who have survived living and working in some of the most dangerous places on earth can be the most threatened within their own home. And how people and circumstances aren’t what they seem to be. A twist ending finishes up this wild ride. Readers will be surprised and left wondering.
Beginnings is a beautiful and lyrical look at a man’s quest to find himself and to find home. Born on an Ojibwe reservation to a teen mother who dies when he is still a baby, Donovan Manypenny is raised by his grandparents until both grandparents die within months of each other. Orphaned, a ward of the state, then adopted by a white couple and moved to Massachusetts; the pain and confusion he experiences lead him to suppress the memory of who he is for over forty years. At age 53 he is called to re-awaken that part of himself and he sets off on a journey to find his roots, and himself. His journey home follows the ancient migration trail of the early Ojibwe. He hopes that he will remember who he is and that there are people left who remember him. His Journey is a spiritual, emotional, and physical, quest back to his roots.
Both compelling and inspirational, Thomas D. Peacock blends the story of a lost boy trying to find his way back home in adulthood with the thousand year story of the Ojibwe. Combining personal with the historical, illustrating how an individual is part of this larger narrative, Peacock has given us a voice so authentic it is easy to mistake this novel for a memoir. Donovan Manypenny is an inspiring and engaging narrator. Readers are fortunate to be invited on his journey as he struggles to find his sense of self, his purpose, and a place of belonging.
Beginnings is like a spiritual guide, travelogue, history primer, memoir, and novel all rolled into one. In Donovan Manypenny, the author has conjured for us a fine travelling companion and Beginnings is a journey you will be glad you took.