Little Faith

Nickolas Butler

Faber & Faber, £8.99

Sixty-five years old, Lyle Hovde still lives in his home town, enjoying an uncomplicated life surrounded by old friends and working in an orchard. His adopted daughter Shiloh lives there too, raising her five-year-old son, Isaac. Lyle still attends church, though he stopped believing years ago, when his baby son died. Shiloh, however, is becoming ever more devout, and the rift between them widens when she gets involved with an evangelistic preacher who declares that little Isaac is a healer. When Lyle voices his doubts, Shiloh cuts off his contact with his grandson, and things only get worse from there. Set in Butler’s home state of Wisconsin, Little Faith takes place over the space of a year, moving at the gentle pace as it basks in the grounded pleasures of the small town. Although it leaves much unresolved, it’s a novel about faith and family which holds to the view that the quiet moments can be the most important.


Gregory Claeys

Thames & Hudson, £9.99

The ideal society is a notion that has been debated since Classical times, and it’s a particular passion of Gregory Claeys’. In this handy primer, he examines theoretical and philosophical ideas about what Utopia might be like, as well as various attempts to create one, as in post-Revolutionary France, the USSR and China. Obviously, Thomas More’s seminal 1560 text Utopia is covered, as well as later, more satirical works by Defoe and Swift, and he passes from visions like the Cockayne of the Italian Renaissance (in which bridges of salami crossed rivers of milk) to more modest attempts which were actually built, like the towns of Saltaire and Bourneville, or communities created by Shakers and Hippies. Its shadow self, the dystopia, is implicitly present too, particularly in a chapter on science fiction. With no shortage of historical examples to draw on, this is a full and fast-moving introduction, which might feel condensed but is never boring.

The Chronology of Water

Lidia Yuknavitch

Canongate, £9.99

Taking the stillbirth of her daughter as a starting point, Yuknavitch’s dark memoir is both exorcism and dissection, a raw and visceral account with the emphasis on physicality. After a childhood marred by an abusive father and an alcoholic mother who did nothing to stop him, alcohol and drug addiction cut short the aspiring swimmer’s academic career and plunged her into a disordered, self-destructive existence which reached its nadir when she hit a pregnant woman with a car. Since its first appearance in the US in 2011, The Chronology of Water has amassed a huge following for its unvarnished honesty, Yuknavitch flitting between key points in her life, such as how she joined a writing class run by Ken Kesey and how her relationship with her body and her fascination with other people’s scars led her to seek healing in BDSM. Openly indebted to Kathy Acker, it’s an unnerving but bracing memoir about her drive to survive and find her own voice.