Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake - Jenny Wingfield

Product Details
Set in Arkansas in the 1950s, most of the story takes place within a few acres on the farmland of Calla and John Moses, and starts with the annual family reunion of the Moses clan. One of the family, Willadee Lake, married to Samuel, a methodist preacher, is there with her children Swan, Noble and Bienville whilst Samuel is at the Methodist Annual Conference, waiting to hear where the church will send him this year. The children love their times on their grandparents farm, and this year was to have been no different - but life takes an odd turn. Samuel isn't given a church, and although the Conference does not give him a reason, might it be because he thinks the poor and the drunk are worth saving just as much as the clean and jobworthy? For a man who loves God and wants everyone else to do the same, this is a savage blow for Samuel, as with no money, the family will have to remain on the farm. This summer will be a summer never to be forgotten, with friendships forged, deceits practiced, forgiveness asked and forgiven, cruelty avenged. There are some very dark passages.Some of these involve Blade, a boy from the Ballenger family, the Moses' nearest neighbour. The head of the family, Ras Ballenger, is a horsebreaker and bully, and it is because he treats one particular horse so badly that Blade gets Swan involved in his life. From the slow beginning, I loved this story. The characters are well drawn, you know them, you know how you feel about them and you are rooting for the good ones, and gritting your teeth against the bad ones.

I was reminded of "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe" - another book I didn't want to put down. I have seen comparisons to Fanny Flagg's books also, and although that may well be right, this story is rather darker, although there are occasions when I could not help but smile - especially when Swan spoke her mind - as children often do.

Jenny Wingfield is a successful scriptwriter, but this is her first novel. She has a lovely style, flowing and desciptive, urging you to read 'just another chapter'. I do hope that she will have more than one book in her, and I look forward to more.

(copy of my Amazon review