Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio Belanger
reviewed by Ellen Gable Hrkach
Olivia and the Little Way is a delightful children’s novel about Olivia Thomas, a ten year old who moves with her family from Texas to Michigan. She is nervous about going to a new school so her grandmother (with whom she has a close relationship) gives her a St. Thérèse chaplet and tells her about ‘The Little Way,’ that St. Thérèse believed that “you can show your love for God by doing little things for Him with great love.”
Olivia loses the chaplet almost as soon as she receives it, however, and is frustrated when she is unable to bring it with her on the first day of her new school. She meets many new acquaintances at St. Michael’s School: Mrs. Wells, her new teacher, Sr. Anne Marie, the principal, and two unique sets of friends, the popular girls, Sabrina and Hayley; and the unpopular kids, Jenna and Chad. In an effort to be accepted and well-liked at her new school, Olivia makes some poor choices, then regrets her actions. She prays that she finds her chaplet, then she makes a renewed effort to “do little things for God.”
As each day goes by, Olivia learns how to love others through the Little Way: by not telling on a classmate when a note is passed to her and she is caught reading it; by using the only dollar she has to pay for another classmate’s lunch and, therefore, sacrificing her own favorite lunch of tacos; by doing chores without being asked and many other examples. Later in the story, however, she finds herself being encouraged to do something she knows is wrong. She gives in to temptation, and then she must deal with the consequences. Olivia is frustrated and admits that the Little Way is not always easy. Her grandmother tells her, “You cannot expect to follow the Little Way without some hardship along the way. It is a work in progress. Do not get discouraged…God does not expect perfection; He only wants you to try your best every day.” This is wonderful advice, not only for Olivia, but for all of us.
St. Thérèse has been one of my favorite saints since I visited Lisieux as a teenager many years ago, so I especially enjoyed this novel and the St. Thérèse quotes at the beginning of each chapter. In this well-written and engaging novel, author Nancy Carabio Belanger illustrates St. Thérèse’s Little Way in a delightful and unique approach without being preachy or dogmatic. I highly recommend this wonderful book not only for children, but for anyone interested in following the Little Way.
—Ellen Gable Hrkach
"As part of its mission to promote Catholic fiction in all its forms and introduce it to as wide a readership as possible, Idylls Press has set up this website to post news and reviews of Catholic fiction—novels, short story collections, and literary biography and criticism. We look at fiction in every genre, both classic and contemporary. We also occasionally review (from a Catholic’s point of view) novels which can in no way be considered Catholic, yet which deal with themes of interest to Catholics."