Title: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
Author: Jenny Wingfield
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Source: Net Galley
Date Completed: 9/30/2011
Rating: 5/5Recommend: yes (loved it)
Columbia County, Arkansas, 1956
"John Moses couldn’t have chosen a worse day, or a worse way to die, if he’d planned it for a lifetime. Which was possible. He was contrary as a mule. It was the weekend of the Moses family reunion, and everything was perfect—or at least perfectly normal—until John went and ruined it."
On the first Sunday of every June the Moses family reunion takes place on the family's expansive farmland home site in Arkansas. This year the only daughter of John and Calla Moses, Willadee Lake, must make the trip with just her three children: Swan (yes Swan Lake), Bienville and Noble. Her husband, the Rev. Samuel Lake, must attend the annual minister's conference. It is at this conference where the ministers learn whether they will remain in their current parish, or be transferred somewhere else, as has often happened in the past for Samuel and his family.
While Samuel is learning his fate as a minister, back at the Moses homestead tragedy strikes, just as family is preparing for the reunion and lots of guests. The Moses clan is a family of faith and when tragedy and disappointments hit home, the family bands together and helps each other make it through the rough times.
Instead of going on about the details of this story -- a few story lines go on in this one, I just say what makes this debut novel so wonderful are it's characters -- you can't help but fall in love with most of them. Samuel Lake, is a handsome, Methodist Minister, stubborn, yet a devoted husband and father. Willadee, his wife, is somewhat of a plain-Jane, but she is the favored child of her parents, and a wonderful mother to the couple's (3) respectful, compassionate children (gotta love these kids, especially 11-year old Swan.) Toy, is Willadee's brother, a gentle giant, war veteran who lost his leg protecting a black man. Toy is married to a despicable two-timing woman named Bernice, who still has the hots for Rev. Samuel. However, the novel's most despicable character by far is Ras Ballenger, a man who abuses humans -- his own family and animals as well. I rooted for this man to get what he deserved in this story. His son Blade, is a pitiful child, who Swan befriends, and welcomes into the Moses home as does her family. While trying to protect Blade from his abusive father, he also gets a glimpse at how a normal family functions.
There are several sad things that happen in the novel (some cringe-worthy), but it's also a story about good versus evil, and a story of faith and redemption. Although there is an emphasis on the importance of faith, the novel is never preachy, which I appreciated. Despite all of the sadness that the characters in the book must face, it's one of those rare stories that in the end was able to leave me with a feeling of hopefulness.
I found this review so hard to put into words, as I knew I just couldn't possibly do it all the justice it deserves. Jenny Wingfield weaves together a beautiful story about family, about humanity. It's both heartfelt and humorous, and also dark and tragic. It's about being there for family and others when they need you the most. This book is certain to make my top 10 list for 2011. You MUST read this novel. I'm pretty sure that you'll be glad you did.
Thanks to Net Galley and Random House for allowing me to review this eBook.