Book Review: My Heart is a Wild Little Thing, Nigel Featherstone

by Nigel Featherstone My heart is a wild little thing is an emotionally devastating yet ultimately hopeful exploration of love, family and place. Pushed to the limit by his suffocating dependent relationship with his aging mother, Patrick responds with a single act of foiled violence. In an attempt to deal with the complexity of his situation and his own emotions, he flees to the old farmhouse near the Snowy Mountains where he spent many treasured family vacations as a child.

Alone, Patrick reflects on his teenage years, young adulthood, and how his life came to be what it is now. Coming of age at the height of the AIDS crisis, Patrick’s fear and repression meant he never kissed or acted on his love for other boys and men, even as an adult. However, isolated in the farm where he spent his childhood, he finally knows intimacy in a short but intense idyll with Lewis, a mysterious musician who must soon return to Dublin. In the years that follow, Patrick’s life becomes even more intertwined with that of his mother, as he cares for her as her health declines. He occasionally returns to the farm for a brief reprieve, longing for the love he once had with Lewis.

Following Patrick’s life from childhood to middle age, My heart is a wild little thing considers family ties and what it takes to break free, and finally take charge of your own path. Featherstone’s description of Patrick’s loneliness and sense of disconnect with the world around him is heartbreaking. However, as he finally begins to prioritize his own happiness, Patrick notices the richness of the world around him – in food, nature, and his relationships. This detail is interspersed with contemplative flashbacks of his youth and his strained relationship with his family. These reflections often take on a melancholic and nostalgic tone, imbuing the novel with an ever-present sense of loss.

Coupled with the guilt Patrick feels about his frustration with his aging mother, My heart is a wild little thing has the potential to be overwhelmed with negativity, but Featherstone’s attention to detail and Patrick’s ultimately hopeful trajectory add a sense of optimism.

The natural world takes center stage, with Jimenbuen, the location of the farm, playing an almost character-like role. Patrick is transformed by his experiences in Jimbuen with Lewis, but the land itself – its isolation and wilderness – also offers a place of safety and release from the guilt and frustration Patrick feels over his difficult relationship. with his mother. Each location is rendered in precise and careful detail: Jimenbuen’s barn, the streets of Sydney and the sleepy country town where Patrick lives.

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As Patrick’s bond with his mother grows increasingly strained, his love for Lewis remains a constant point of solace and hope. While he feels alienated from romance and relationships by his loneliness and lack of experience, queer love itself is never presented as alien. On the contrary, Patrick’s love for Lewis is the only thing that feels “right” in his life. Lewis and nature are intertwined in Patrick’s mind, as they meet on Jimenbuen’s property.

Evocative and moving, My heart is a wild little thing illustrates the complexity of relationships and freedom. Torn between his love and his frustration with his mother, Patrick struggles to take control of his life and follow his heart. Featherstone questions the power of love and the natural world in Patrick’s life, creating a captivating and moving read.

My heart is a wild little thing by Nigel Featherstone
Publisher: Ultimo Press
ISBN: 9781761150135
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288 pages
Release date: May 2022
MSRP: $32.99

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