My Heart is a Little Wild Thing

Nigel Featherstone

My Heart is a Little Wild Thing
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My Heart is a Little Wild Thing

Nigel Featherstone

The day after I tried to kill my mother, I tossed some clothes, a pair of hiking boots, a baseball cap and a few toiletries into my backpack, and left at dawn.

Patrick has always considered himself a good son. Willing to live his life to please his parents, his sense of duty paramount to his own desires and dreams. But as his mother’s health continues to deteriorate and his siblings remain absent, he finds the ties that bind him to his mother begin to chafe.

After an argument leads to a violent act, he travels to a familiar country retreat to reflect on what his life could be - and through a chance encounter with a rare animal and an intriguing stranger starts to wonder if perhaps it is not too late to let his heart run wild.

A story about family, love and the cost of freedom, My Heart is a Little Wild Thing serves as a reminder that we all deserve to pursue our dreams.


Midway through Nigel Featherstone’s second novel, the protagonist’s father speaks to him in the departure lounge of the airport: ‘Just try to be happy Patrick. It is not as hard as you think.’ My Heart Is a Little Wild Thing is the story of Patrick trying to reckon with this very challenge. He is a loner, disconnected from his aspirations, his sexuality and his family, barring his (difficult) mother whom he looks after every single day. In an attempt to capture the happiness of his childhood, Patrick ventures to Jimenbuen in the country, where his family used to holiday. It is here that he meets Lewis and finally experiences all the good in our world: acceptance, laughter, wilderness, art and love. It is short-lived; compromised, Patrick returns to his ailing mother.

This is a novel about what it means to yearn. We are privy only to Patrick’s memories and experiences; we travel as he does on the long country roads, through endless nights of longing and days of fumbling. Patrick is customarily noble in his actions but is trapped in an interminable cycle of duty. He is a tourist in his own life and although the novel does eventually take us to a place of redemption, as readers, we are left feeling as lonely as Patrick is. This is the power of this quiet novel; it is a portrait, surely, of many of us – those wondering if this is our place, our lot, our future. We feel caught and only a dramatic change of circumstances allows a break of sorts, a moment of possibilities.

We learnt in Featherstone’s first novel, Bodies of Men, that he is a writer who understands human fragility. Here, Featherstone has cemented his talent and allowed us an intimate view into another person’s heart. It is a gift.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager at Readings

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