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The Homecoming of Samuel Lake: A Novel [Hardcover]

Jenny Wingfield
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 12 2011

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.


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Praise for The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

"Raw, dark, and powerful. Southern Gothic at its best. Puts one in mind of Erskine Caldwell and Flannery O'Connor."
—Fannie Flagg, bestselling author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

 
“Jenny Wingfield’s richly detailed account of good and evil in 1950s Arkansas will captivate anyone who treasures the values of faith and honesty that are a part of America’s rural past. Wingfield’s sense of people and place is uncanny. After reading The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, you too will believe in miracles.”—Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of Prayers for Sale and Whiter Than Snow
 
“Jenny Wingfield has given us a spectacular novel with The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. This ensemble of unforgettable characters will make you laugh out loud one minute, hold your breath the next, and weep when you least expect it. I didn’t just love this book, I adored it.”—Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author of Lowcountry Summer
 
“Readers will lift up their hands in praise of this layered tale of sin, grace, and redemption. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake has a supreme cast of characters including a flawed but righteous daddy, a makes-your-skin-crawl villain, and the sassiest, truest girl heroine this side of Scout Finch. Can I get an ‘Amen’?”—Susan Rebecca White, New York Times bestselling author of A Soft Place to Land and Bound South

“Wingfield writes complex, believable heroes . . . with redemption trumping tragedies in scenes ripe with tension and dread.”—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Jenny Wingfield lives in Texas with her rescued dogs, cats, and horses. Her screenplay credits include The Man in the Moon and The Outsider. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is her first novel.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Family Reunion You Won't Forget! Aug. 13 2011
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book and couldn't put it down. For a debut novel, Jenny Wingfield has penned a winner!

The story opens in Columbia County, Arkansas, in 1956. The entire extended Moses clan have gathered for their annual reunion. John and Calla Moses have been hosting this reunion for years. The majority of family members live close-by with the exception of John and Calla's daughter, Willadee, who lives down in Louisianna. She is married to Samuel Lake, a preacher of the Methodist religion which does not sit well with old John. He sees the Methodists as: "...the vilest bunch of bandits alive".

Samuel and Willadee have three children: twelve-year-old Noble, nine-year-old Bienville, and eleven-year-old Swan Lake." Three precocious children who were adept at keeping themselves entertained playing war games and spying on people.

Calla ran a store from the front of the house where folks could purchase the staples of everyday life. Her store was open from dawn to dusk. John, not one to be outdone, opened a bar at the back of the house and was open dusk to dawn with a sign that said: "Moses Never Closes".

The family reunion is going along fine until tragedy strikes throwing the family into chaos. Although the rural setting appears picturesque, there are many failings in the characters.

Swan Lake is an absolute fearless eleven-year-old and was compared to Scout in the movie `To Kill a Mockingbird'. Although fearless she is chocked full of kindness, generosity and love. Her eight-year-old neighbour, Blade Ballenger is a character that you are totally going to fall in love with and if you're like me, you'll be rooting for someone to save him from his horrifying father and indifferent mother.

This is an emotionally charged book that, at one point, had me sobbing like a baby! I could easily see this novel becoming a classic someday. Ms. Wingfield is an up and coming author to watch for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Debut Novel!!!! Aug. 3 2011
By PoCoKat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book is going to haunt me for a long time. What an incredible debut novel from Jenny Wingfield. This novel is set in rural Arkansas in the 1950s. The extended family has gathered for an annual reunion when tragedy strikes. And though the country setting seems picturesque, human failings lurk everywhere. There is plenty of goodness in this book but there is also evil. An evil so vile that I had trouble reading at times. But the writer has such an amazing way with words that you cannot stop reading. You have to know what happens. It is a story about change and a story about faith, redemption and miracles.

This is not a children's story but the children are the heart and soul of this story. Fearless eleven year old Swan Lake has been compared to Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. And she is fearless and wonderful and has a heart overflowing with kindness and love. Blade Ballenger, their eight year old neighbor stole my heart. I wanted to jump into the pages of the book and save him myself from his terrifying father and ineffectual mother. Everyone in the family goes through immense changes in this book including of course the title character, Swan's father, Samuel Lake. Samuel is a preacher without a church trying to keep his family together and maintain his dignity. Every character in this book has a role to play in this brilliant work of fiction.

I do believe in miracles. I cannot overemphasize how powerful this book is. Highly recommend this brilliant debut novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  202 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Verbal Feast for the Senses March 28 2011
By Gerard Webster, award-winning author - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Reading "The Homecoming of Samuel Lake" was a pleasant surprise for me. I was not familiar with the author, Jenny Wingfield. When I opened the back flap and learned that this was her first novel (after two successful screenplays), I didn't know what to expect. But it took only the very first sentence to hook me...and the rest of the paragraph to set the hook. After that, all she had to do was reel me in.

Samuel Lake is a good man. He's a faithful husband to the former Willadee Moses, a loving father to their three children, and a preacher by choice. But he's a man in conflict when he finds himself without a job, a home for his family, or any prospects for the future. By default, the only temporary home he can find is with the Moses clan on their family farm.

A sudden tragedy ricochets the trajectory of his preaching career like a bullet off a rock. Sam is forced to question everything he is and stands for--as a husband, a father, and a man of God. The process for him is about as painless as a Civil War era amputation--without anesthesia. And you feel his and his family's pain, yearning, hope, and disappointment as though you were living in their skin.

Wingfield's characters are as deep as a well--and as refreshing as a cool drink from it. The plot's twists and eddies carry you along their strong current to its dramatic conclusion. Wingfield knows how to keep the suspense as tight as a fishing line--giving a little play of humor to relieve the tension before hauling back on the line again. And her writing style is original and fresh with Southern homespun phrasing. "The Homecoming of Samuel Lake" was a verbal feast for the senses. This might be Jenny Wingfield's first novel; but I fervently hope it's not her last. Highly recommended!
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new classic April 9 2011
By Writer Mom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"The Homecoming of Samuel Lake" is a beautifully-written book. At some points it's as carefree and fun as Huck Finn rafting the Mississippi; at other points as bittersweet and touching as "To Kill a Mockingbird." In fact, I'd almost go so far as to say this might turn out to be a new generation's "Mockingbird." It's that good!

It's the story of what happens when a preacher with a wife and three kids loses his job and they return to the family farm which isn't really a working farm as much as a general store and all-night bar.

With memorable characters and a captivating plot, it's a story about good vs. evil, miracles and disappointment, redemption, faith, and forgiveness.

I finished it this morning and I may just have to start reading it again this afternoon.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! April 21 2011
By Bev - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I wasn't sure I'd care for this writer or her book. My first choice is always a great mystery. That being said however, I fell into this story like falling in love! The unforgettable Moses family does that sort of thing to you. Each family member is a character that could stand alone beginning with the young heroine, Swan Lake. A name so funky that I thought I wouldn't be able to tolerate her. Wrong!! She's terrific. A wise cracking pint sized big mouth. She carries the story along and provides an intro to the other quirky members of the clan. The plot revolves around her and becomes very exciting as she helps to rescue a little boy from a brutally abusive father, soothes the spirits of a wounded veteran, and eventually gets herself into a situation that becomes heart pounding for the reader. By this time I liked Swan so much that I didn't want to believe what was happening to her. I won't say anymore, you'll have to read it yourself. But I can promise that you won't be disappointed. Without meaning to be overly critical, I DO have to mention that there are a couple of places where the writing might have benefited from some extremely careful editing. Nothing spoils this story though.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling Dec 26 2012
By Evelyn Uyemura - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's hard for me to decide whether I liked this book or not. On the one hand, yes, the characters are well-drawn, and the plot moves along at a fast, straight-forward clip, and the language is evocative. I think the problem is the voice--there's a stark contrast between the warm, cozy feel of much of the story, and the really brutal harshness of some of what happens in the story. If I compare it to The Secret Life of Bees, wherein there's a warmth and gentleness and humor to the story despite some pretty terrible events, this still feels a lot more jarring. It's almost as if you were reading along in To Kill a Mockingbird, and then suddenly there was a lurid description of a lynching, complete with an up-close description of a castration.

I am also a little unsure how to take the theme of the story--it seems to grapple with theodicy, why does God allow evil, especially evil perpetrated against children and even animals. But what is the resolution? is it that despite not having an answer, we should go on trusting in miracles and in love? Probably, and probably the point is that the pastor Dad embodies God's love in a way--but what are we to make of his action at the end? And are we to take Toy's action as Christ, taking the punishment that rightly belongs to us sinners?

I think the story probably does mean that, and that makes the whole thing even more jarring, because it is put into such a golden-hued setting, with a voice that uses devices such as capital letters to give a jocular tone: when The Bad Thing happened, she wanted to be Ready. (not a quote, just an approximation.)

I'm not sorry I read it, but if you have a hard time hearing about animal abuse or child abuse or spouse abuse, please beware.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An imperfect world, blessed with the miracle of love April 6 2011
By S. Deeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In Columbia County, Arkansas, in 1956, John Moses attends his final family reunion. His son-in-law, Samuel Lake, is, as usual, absent, but comes home for the funeral. Samuel's a preacher, but what's a man of God to do when the people of God decide not to give him a job? Homeless, with wife and family to support, he decides to stay on the farm while he seeks employment. As relatives, neighbors and strangers interact, Samuel soon finds his wife serving beer at the bar, his daughter running wild with a wounded child, his son learning to fight, and his mother-in-law adopting a runaway horse.

There's brother Toy who might have murdered someone, sister-in-law Bernice of the beautiful voice and even more beautiful eyes, daughter Swan (Swan Lake, poor child!) who views the world through eyes of innocence and truth, and a small stranger, Blade, who will change the whole family.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is a rich, beautiful tale, as wide as the landscape it so lovingly portrays, as wise as the farmer's hand, and as deep as a young girl's innocence and hurt. It's a tale of family, friendship and fun, with laughter and pain, forgiveness and redemption, and a strong core of love that proves the world doesn't need to be perfect to be blessed with miracles. A powerful, memorable, people-rich novel, perfectly balanced with darkness and light, filled with music and laughter and building to terrifying fear, this is a story to remember, and a book that's almost impossible to put down.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book distributed by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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