Book Review: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
by Julie Failla Earhart
Jenny Wingfield’s debut novel, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, takes place in Columbia County near the Louisiana border), Arkansas in 1956. This year, like every year for as long as anyone could remember, the first Sunday in June was reserved for the Moses family reunion. Samuel Lake brings his wife, the former Willadee Moses, and their three children up from southern Louisiana for the festivities. As in previous years, Samuel drops the family at the Moses farm and heads off to the Methodist Preachers’ Conference, where he will learn his fate of remaining in his current church or being reassigned. This year, tragedy strikes as the rest of the Moses clan arrives on the farm, and Willadee and Samuel’s lives are upended in more ways than just the original heartbreak. As I read, I was captivated with the title. Samuel Lake undergoes a transformation, but the story belongs to their 11-year-old daughter, Swan: an outgoing child, always inquisitive and not afraid to speak her mind. In fact, USA TODAY compared Swan to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Swan takes it upon herself to shield an abused neighbor child, Blade Ballenger, and gives the whole family something to focus on other than their own problems.
The novel is an easy read. Wingfield’s writing is smooth, the plot face-paced, and she had me hooked from the first sentence. Her characters are well-drawn, complex, and never failed to surprise this reader with their actions. She illustrates a talent that feels more like she’s a seasoned veteran rather than a debutante.
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is the best book I’ve read so far this year.