Boy’s search for his father makes for fast-paced, charming novel

“Little Big Love” by Katy Regan. Berkley Books (New York, New York, 2018). 368 pp., $26.

By Ann Jonas
For The Visitor

“Little Big Love,” set in a small fishing town in England, is a heartwarming tale about a boy who wants his dad, whom he’s never met, to be a part of his life.

Narrated by three different characters, this just-published novel shifts from the perspectives of 10-year-old Zac Hutchinson; his mother, Juliet; and Juliet’s father, Mick. Early in the book we hear hints of a tragedy that happened a decade ago — Juliet’s brother died — but there is some mystery as to
what really happened.

The book begins with a letter written by Zac to his dad, Liam, inviting him to his 11th birthday party, which will happen in five months.

Zac has no idea where his father is, so he hasn’t actually mailed the letter. He clearly doesn’t understand why his father has never had any contact with him.

A big-hearted boy, Zac is fascinated by facts; each of his chapters begins with a favorite fact of his. He declares “I love my facts like I love my cooking,” and he dreams of being a chef like his late uncle Jamie. Unfortunately, Zac is a very chubby boy and experiences bullying by his classmates.

Juliet is also overweight, inactive and sometimes drinks too much. After a disastrous date, she drunkenly tells Zac that she “only ever loved Liam.” From that point on, Zac is on a secret mission to find his father, believing that Liam will come back to Juliet if Zac can only reach him. Zac enlists his best friend, Teagan, a neighbor girl, to help him on his quest, which he dubs the “Find Dad mission.”

Zac is very close to his grandparents, Mick and Lynda, but has never been able to get the full story of what happened to his uncle Jamie; he just knows that they are still mourning. Zac also knows that his grandmother gets angry whenever he mentions Liam, and his grandfather gets quiet. His mother simply says Liam “did a runner” — abandoning her before Zac was born. Zac firmly believes that he can make his mother happy by finding Liam.

Because the narrative keeps shifting and the storyline is compelling, “Little Big Love” is a fast-paced book. Readers will delight in Zac — he’s so kind and sweet and has the wonder and naiveté of the young. Juliet also is a very likable character, though she’s lonely and makes some poor choices. Mick is mostly the silent type but does his best to be the father-figure in Zac’s life. Teagan is a smart, supportive friend to Zac. As the book moves along, Zac and Teagan discover more about Jamie’s death, which also leads them closer to finding Liam.

There are some twists and turns before the book’s gratifying ending.

“Little Big Love” is Katy Regan’s fourth book but her first published in the United States. Her writing is entertaining while tackling some heavy issues, including bullying and family drama.

Readers will find this novel charming and affecting — a worthy read.

“Little Big Love” can be found in bookstores everywhere, including the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University Bookstores.

Ann Jonas is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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