Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake; Jenny Wingfield

Title: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
Author: Jenny Wingfield
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Edition: eBook
Source: Net Galley
Location: Arkansas
Date Completed: 9/30/2011 
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: 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.


  1. Diane, this is a great and glowing review. I'll be adding this book to my TBR piles!

  2. Even if you had trouble putting your thoughts into words, your love of this book comes through. You've made me anxious to read it.

  3. I think I would have to be in the mood for this one. I'll keep it in mind. Great review!

  4. Once again, we are in line with each other's book choices. I have this one from the library. I turned it down initially and then decided to check it out after all the great reviews.

  5. I don't think I have read a review for this one that wasn't overwhelmingly positive. I can't wait to read it!

  6. Wonderful review Diane. I agree with how hard it is to put into words how beautiful this novel is. It's one of my favorites of the year.

  7. I have avoided this book because of the human and animal abuse. I am a very sensitive reader, and think that this book might be too much for me. I am glad to hear that you thought it was such a good read though, and your review really impressed me. Thanks for sharing it!

  8. Yes! Another friend who loved this one as much as I did!!!! This one blew me away and I felt everything you described!!

  9. Yes indeed. This one is for sure a winner!

  10. So many have loved this book! It is on my must read list.

  11. I think your review was great, it made me want to read it too!

  12. This was one of my favorite books of the year as well. I was totally enthralled by the characters, especially Swan Lake.

  13. Great review. Even though I so don't need another book to add to my epically long wish list, you've added another one.

  14. This is a fantastic review, Diane. I wasn't all that interested in this book until I read your review and understood what it's about. It sounds like an intense, powerful book with some fascinating characters. Thank you :o)


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