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The Homecoming of Samuel Lake: A Novel Hardcover – Jul 12 2011

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (July 12 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385344082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385344081
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.9 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,012,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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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By Janet B TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 30 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Columbia County, Arkansas, 1956, members of the Moses Clan gather for the Traditional annual reunion at a sprawling hundred-acre farm. It is held every year on the first Sunday in June. The Patriarch and Matriarch of the Moses family are John and Calla. They have five children, four sons and a daughter. Their younger son, Walter, died in a sawmill accident the year he turned twenty.

The Moses house is a big two-story house. John and Calla stopped farming several years back. They walled in the front porch of the house and turned it into a grocery store/service station, which they named Moses. Now, John liked to drink and this led to a problem in their once loving relationship. So, the service station turned into a bar renamed Moses Never Closes and John works all night and Calla runs the grocery store during the day.

Willadee is their only daughter. She is happily married to Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young Methodist preacher. They have three children, two boys named Noble and Bienville and a daughter named Swan. Swan is eleven years old, very energetic, sassy and a ray of sunshine. John never liked Samuel. He had other plans for his daughter. He wanted Willadee to marry someone else and remain in Columbia County. That was not to be, since Willadee fell deeply in love with Samuel Lake and moved to Louisiana.

People are now arriving for the reunion, bringing lots of food with them and preparing for a wonderful time. Just as the reunion is getting started, tragedy strikes. To add to it, Samuel Lake finds himself without a job, a home for his family and the future is looking bleak. The only temporary home is with the Moses Clan on their farm, while he looks for a job.
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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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By PoCoKat TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 3 2011
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 (beta) HASH(0xa1035e34) out of 5 stars 382 reviews
63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3f2036c) out of 5 stars Verbal Feast for the Senses March 28 2011
By Gerard Webster, award-winning author - Published on
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!
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa01a37d4) out of 5 stars A new classic April 9 2011
By Writer Mom - Published on
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.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0f8b9f0) out of 5 stars Wonderful! April 21 2011
By Bev - Published on
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.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By Evelyn Uyemura - Published on
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa029587c) out of 5 stars Needed more focus,better editing Aug. 2 2011
By Kiki - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The ARC has a lovely cover with a bird on it, the hardcover is due to be released this coming Tuesday, July 12, 2011. I was sent this book by the publisher and read it before it was released.

This is a story of the Lake family and their return to Willadee Lake's (nee Moses) family home in Arkansas. Samuel Lake is a Methodist preacher who is moved around in the South from parish to parish with his family, (they have two sons and a daughter, until one year, a parish is not offered to Samuel. They return to Calla and John Moses's home with their children.

I really wanted to love this story. The author is the screenwriter for one of the most tear jerking movies of all (my) time, The Man in the Moon(1991), Reese Witherspoon's first movie. This is a similar setting: times are simpler, people are more down to earth, there is no television or internet. The Lake family children are playful and well adjusted, particularly Swan, the only girl. This was pretty much my biggest problem in the novel, but there were a few. While the title of the book leads you to believe this book is going to be about Samuel Lake, the first third of the book seems to be about Swan Lake, and her antics and adventures. several new characters are introduced, and while I understand you need minor characters, the author seems to delve into details about these minor characters, and creates tiny little plot diversions that pretty much go nowhere.

There are so many different tentacles to the plot, I began to wonder what this novel was really about. Was it about the spiritual failings of a pastor and family man, his daughter and her struggle for identity? Or his brother in law Toy, a disabled WW2 vet with a beautiful yet unfaithful wife, with her eye on Sam? Calla, Willadee's mother who is widowed by her husband's suicide right at the start of the book? Blade, the abused neighbor boy who is nearly murdered by his sadistic father? There were just too many plot lines to feel like I was getting to know these characters, the story jumped about. About 50 pages before the end of the novel, I wondered why I was even reading it any longer. But after about 30 of those pages, the plot takes a final turn that grabbed me and pulled me in and made me cry. It pulled together several of those characters and united those plot lines.

This book had some really wonderful things going for it. But the possible Mockingbird small-town feel without the wise characters didn't work. Justice turns a blind eye in this novel (there is murder, rape domestic abuse and child abuse, almost all of which goes without prosecution). Samuel Lake is no Atticus Finch, Swan, not quite a Scout. The conclusion of the novel is almost spectacular, and there were many great ideas there for other themes in the book; redemption, sacrifice, faith and miracles. But somehow, for the first 8/10ths of the book, there was nor real central unifying theme.

I like this novel, I just heartily wish it was better. Perhaps a little more editing and paring down of the length of the story as well would have worked, perhaps narrowing down the amount of characters having their say, and showing us their thoughts.. I don't think I'll be recommending this book to friends.