Navigating faith, family and friendship in Nickolas Butler’s newest novel, “Little Faith”

Nickolas Butler kicks off release of latest novel at the Local Store

More stories from Kaitlyn Zenner


Photo by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Nickolas Butler, author of “Little Faith,” which attempts to capture the conflict between a father and daughter’s differing religious beliefs.

Disagreements are a part of life. Whether it’s an argument with friends, siblings, parents or coworkers, it’s impossible to see eye-to-eye about everything. But, where do we draw the line between accepting others’ beliefs for the sake of peace, though we believe them to be ill-considered, and even harmful to others, and trying to change their beliefs—though this could prove detrimental to our relationship with them? 

Nickolas Butler explores these topics, and then some, in his latest novel, “Little Faith,” which attempts to capture the conflict between a father and daughter’s differing religious beliefs. 

The novel follows 65-year-old Lyle Hovde and his wife Peg, whose daughter Shiloh has been estranged from the family until recently. Since coming home with her son Isaac, Shiloh has made a reunited and happy family a possibility. 

This is where the happiness and harmony come to a halt. Lyle learns that Shiloh has become severely dedicated to a fringe church since distancing herself from her family. When her son Isaac begins suffering from diabetes, Shiloh’s allegiance to her religion causes her to choose faith healing over modern medicine. 

Butler said Lyle’s position in choosing between the relationship with his daughter and his grandson’s health is a difficult one.  

“Lyle’s sort of trying to walk a tight-rope between keeping his family together and staying out of his daughter’s life, but also making sure that his grandson isn’t in any danger,” Butler said. 

Lyle’s careful approach to discussing this subject with his daughter is not unlike how Butler approached writing the novel as a whole, Butler said. He said he found writing about this sensitive topic of religion to be one of the most challenging parts of creating his novel. 

“I think the subject matter is something that people don’t really like to talk about it,” Butler said. “It’s a little bit controversial or taboo, so just handling things in kind of a delicate, even keeling 360-degree, way was kind of the hardest thing.”

Butler was able to showcase the novel in a “Little Faith” reading and signing event at The Local Store on Monday. Local Store manager Lindsey Quinnies said she commended Butler for his success in writing.   

“He’s been writing a lot and all of his books have gotten a lot of national  (and) international attention,” Quinnies said. “This is his most recent one, and we’ve been with him since the beginning, so we reached out to him and asked if he would do his first event here.”

The people in attendance were not disappointed by the event. One audience member, Ashley King, affirmed her long-time enjoyment of Butler’s work. 

“I read ‘Shotgun Lovesongs’ about a year ago,” King said. “We had read it in a book club, so we heard he was a local author. Then when we had seen that he was coming, we were like ‘oh yeah this could be fun.’”

As Butler embarks on his 33-city tour to publicize his novel, he continues to meet new fans, such as Abby Devita, an audience member he met at the event.

“I’m new to Nickolas Butler, but I have heard wonderful things,” Devita said. “I’ve got his latest book, and I’m excited to read it.”

Zenner can be reached at [email protected].