Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
At the end of a 1,200 mile odyssey and leaving my oldest daughter a couple of states away from home, I was in no shape to sit calmly in an airport, waiting for my flight to be called.   So...what better way to cheer myself up than to buy a book?!  My need for mysteries had been sated this summer, so what next?  As I browsed through the books, I would pull up the Amazon reviews and see what others thought.  This novel by Jenny Wingfield, her first after a couple of screenplays, caught my eye.  When I read the reviews (five stars across the board), I figured why not?  I was expecting a simple, country tale, not much of a barn-burner.  Quite frankly, I was rather shocked at how much I loved this book.  It takes place back in the 1950's, when parents didn't provide the constant 'hovering' of their helicopter rotors and kids could be just that, kids.  No organized club sports, families ate dinner together, and pretending to be cowboys and indians wasn't seen as politically incorrect.
The plot revolves around the quirky, painfully honest Moses family, whose daughter Willadee married a preacher man named Samuel Lake.  Due to his refusal to pull punches with congregations, Sam gets a new church each year and this year, none at all so he's moved the family back to Arkansas to the Moses family farm.  This loving couple has three loud, boisterous, delightful children, with the girl Swan (yep, she's named Swan Lake!!) as one of the coolest kids I've read about in awhile.  There's a sister-in-law who's still in love with Sam, an uncle who's killed a man and lost his leg in the war, a grandmother who's trying to recover from her husband's suicide and has more wisdom in her little pinkie than the rest of the county, the abused child who blossoms with a little bit of love, and of course the stereotypical bad neighbor who beats his wife, children, and animals.  However, there's just something about the writing and the story that Wingfield is able to draw her audience in, not wanting to leave this community each night when you should be closing the book, but yes, you keep on reading until well past midnight.  It's not all sunshine and roses - there's some hard parts of the story that involve children - but it is a beautifully told story of family, faith, redemption, and occasional justice.

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