The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.
In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.
With characters who spring to life as vividly as if they were members of one’s own family, and with the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield emerges as one of the most vital, engaging storytellers writing today. In The Homecoming of Samuel Lake she has created a memorable and lasting work of fiction.
My thoughts: What sets the story apart from other books is the writing style and character development. But then, just as I was enjoying it just because it was making me laugh, Ras kept showing up and leaving a bad taste in my mouth. He's definitely a key player in the book since he is the cause of the biggest conflict but his actions, both past and present, turned my stomach. He is, as the characters summarize him, the spawn of the devil. And, although he gets his just desserts in the end, the ending left me just a little less satisfied because he got to terrorize for so long.
But the positives of the book is everything and everybody else. There is no writing style to compare it to except, perhaps, Good Graces, but this one might have eclipsed that writing style. Every character is one I could imagine, maybe because I spent a little too much time watching The Dukes of Hazzard, Beverly Hillbillies, and the Andy Griffith Show, but many of the actors came from them. Calla was just a plumper Grannie. Ras was a more evil Hoggs. The children, Noble, Swan, and Bienville Lake come from someplace close to Mayberry.
What irritated my husband because I kept laughing while he was trying to sleep:
Noble said, "I'm the sheriff."
Swan said, "I'm the United States marshal."
Bienville's hands went to work signing, indicating his own identity, but Blade couldn't read sign language, so he just looked at Swan, since she seemed to always have the answer for everything.
"He's a deaf and dumb Indian scout," Swan said. "he can't talk, and he can't hear you when you talk, so you can say anything you want to around him."
As if to illustrate her point, Noble turned to Bienville, and grinned real big, and said, "You're ugly, and you smell like a cow pile!"
Bienville grinned back, nodding his head up and down as if to say that he couldn't agree more.
It's a small town where everybody knows everybody's business and the grown-ups take themselves far more seriously than anybody else does. Eventually, crap happens but it's the way people carry on and bear each other up that pulls it all together. But I just loved the character development.
*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.