Tony from the Cotswold Bookstore recommends The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
“I received my proof copy of this debut novel in mid February and so, by the end of the second month of the year, I felt I had already read my favourite adult read of 2011.
Samuel Lake is a preacher in need of a flock when, in 1956, he returns to the family farm in Arkansas. He has been set aside by his church for over-enthusiastic preaching and taking the Gospel as gospel when it came to treating all people equal. His family, Swan, an 11 year old tomboy, her two brothers and his devoted wife, Willadee, fit right in to the unusual and unruly family home ruled by Calla Moses, Sam’s mother-in-law.
With Calla running the front of the house as a store and her husband John running the rear as all all-night bar, the house ‘never closes’ and is often home to some of the more disreputable types from far and wide. The Moses family are honest, hardworking and kindly, and their conversations sparkle with homely wit and good sense. They are a joy to read about and this author brings them and her minor character to life in just a few sentences so that they soon become old friends.
However, not all their neighbours are as decent and civil as the Moses clan and one in particular could have been created by that master of cruel, vindictive characters, Dickens himself. Ras Ballenger, horse beater, wife beater, child beater and far worse, would be a close companion to Jonas Chuzzlewit, Quilp, and Mr Squeers and is so realistically portrayed, that a companion of mine refused to finish the book because of him. That, in my mind, is the measure of this book for Jenny Wingfield has given us the good and the truly evil and made us believe in them equally. She has produced for us a host of memorable characters and a plot that neatly dovetails them all together leaving nothing unsaid and her tone and style are pitch perfect. It is mostly amusing, sometimes moving, always involving, briefly terrifying and, finally, completely satisfying.”
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
Published 1st March 2012