Summary and book reviews of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

A Novel

By Jenny Wingfield

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2011,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2012,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Chapter 1

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.

The reunion was always held the first Sunday in June. It had been that way forever. It was tradition. And John Moses had a thing about tradition. Every year or so, his daughter, Willadee (who lived way off down in Louisiana), would ask him to change the reunion date to the second Sunday in June, or the first Sunday in July, but John had a stock answer.

"I'd rather burn in Hell."

Willadee would remind her father that he didn't believe in Hell, and John would remind her that it was God he didn't believe in, the vote was still out about Hell. Then he would throw in that the worst thing about it was, if there did happen to be a hell, Willadee's husband, Samuel Lake, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What would you sacrifice for your family? Did Toy do the right thing? Did Sam?


  2. What purpose did Swan and Uncle Toy have to each other and to the other characters in the story?


  3. In what ways does The Homecoming of Samuel Lake remind you of other Southern Gothic style literature? Give examples.


  4. How does the character Swan Lake compare to Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird? How does Atticus Finch compare to Samuel Lake?


  5. Compare the characters of Willadee and Bernice. How were they different? How were they similar?


  6. What role does the church play in the development of the story? Why does Swan wish that her father was anything but a preacher?


  7. Explore the difference between the Moses' Truth and the Honest Truth. Both present ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

37 out of 38 reviewers rated The Homecoming of Samuel Lake either 4 or 5 stars - one of our highest rated books ever! Here's what they have to say:

I didn't just read this book - I inhaled it - devoured it (Sue P)! This novel has it all. A quick, sharp writing style that's softened by the down-home voices of the characters, laugh out loud lines... Oh, and a villain who you'll want to take care of with your own two hands. Don't miss this book (Madeline Mora-Summonte)!   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Wingfield writes complex, believable heroes, although her villains are straight from central casting, but the writing is good... in scenes ripe with tension and dread.

Kirkus Reviews

Wingfield's film experience shows in her flair for dialogue. But the simplistic division between good and evil characters... may trouble some readers.

Booklist

With a teeming cast of memorable characters and an often heartbreaking story line, this gracefully written novel is sure to appeal broadly... Marred only by its overstated emphasis on Ras's cruelty, it is the work of a born storyteller...

Author Blurb Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of Prayers for Sale and Whiter Than Snow
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.

Author Blurb Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author of Lowcountry Summer
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.

Author Blurb Susan Rebecca White, New York Times bestselling author of A Soft Place to Land and Bound South
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'?

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

Reader Reviews
Lisa B.

Miracles can happen
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is the kind of book that will stay with me a long time. The characters are so realistic and likable that I had to stop reading the book before bed because when bad things happened to the characters it upset me so much ...   Read More

Lori

Homecoming of Samuel Lake
I absolutely loved The Homecoming of Samuel Lake which I won in an ARC giveaway. It’s the best book I’ve read thus far this year. I had been apprehensive that it might be too religious for me, but it wasn’t at all. I agree with the positive ...   Read More

Mary

Ended Too Soon
This was a fabulous book. Characters were developed nicely and the story moved along. It was an easy read and I read it in three evenings.

Louise J

A Family Reunion You Won't Forget!
I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down. For a debut novel, Jenny Wingfield has penned a winner! 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 ...   Read More

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Literature of the American South

With her vivid descriptions of "the old home place," a hundred-acre farm in Arkansas in the 1950s, and her knack for capturing the local dialect in her writing, Jenny Wingfield's debut novel, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, fits comfortably into the category of "literature of the American South."

Map of the South This genre, also known as "Southern literature," dates back to the early 1600s and represents - in part or whole - the different cultures, histories, religions, dialects, social and political struggles, foods, climates, and landscapes specific to the geographic region dubbed the American South (see map). Themes of slavery and civil war are very common in Southern literature, as these historical events greatly affected the construction (and ...

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