The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

This was another one of my quick “2 minutes to pick a library book as the kids are getting noisy…….”

This time, It was the title that grabbed me – I wanted to know more about this Samuel Lake character.

The story is set in 1956 and follows the Lake family. When preacher Samuel is voted out by his less than pleased congregation (they are incensed by his inclusion of people from all walks of life in the church on the basis that they are all equal in the eyes of his God), the family returns to his wife’s home and temporarily move in with his in-laws while they figure out what’s next for them.

I enjoyed the first half of this book as I found it full of interesting characters – Samuel struggling with his faith and his new life, his strong and brooding yet vulnerable brother-in- law Toy, Toy’s beautiful but bored and troublesome wife Bernice, Samuel’s daughter Swan (yes her name is Swan Lake) longing to be one of the boys, Samuel’s wife Willadee loving and supportive but sensing trouble from Bernice and Samuel’s mother in law Calla, who is strong and shrewd but with her own struggles against her role as a new widow.

And this is just the family – then there is the dangerous lurking neighbour Ras Ballinger and his terrified son Blade, running away to join Samuel’s family which brings the story to its climax.

Therein, for me, lies the problem with this book. Samuel’s story has to jostle with the stories of a large cast of interesting characters. And while, yes, it is the actions of these other characters that develops Samuel from a peaceful preacher unshakeable in the belief of his God’s will to a father momentarily so blinded by hate and anger that he takes the life of the man that hurt his young daughter.

I felt that the gentle Samuel ‘s story had to compete with too many big personalities. On the other hand, my interest piqued, I also found myself wanting to hear more of Toy, Calla, Swan, Bernice, Blade and Willadee.

Overall, I don’t think it was a bad read but rather an over busy cast of characters leading to a underdeveloped story. But of course, that’s just this reader’s view!

Again, Jenny Wingfield is not an author that I am familiar with. The book blurb tells me that this book is her first novel and that she is a screenwriter with her credits including The Man in the Moon (starring Reese Witherspoon) and The Outsider (starring Naomi Watts).

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Has anyone read “The Homecoming of Samuel Lake”? What did YOU think?

What are YOU reading at the moment?

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