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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One of Those You'll-Laugh-You'll-Cry-You'll-Jeer-You'll-Cheer Kind of Stories

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I've tried about a dozen times to write an adequate plot summary for The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield, but I just can't get it right.  I'm thinking the simpler the better for this book, so here's the short-and-sweet description that appears on Barnes & Noble and Amazon:

Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at 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. 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 just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change. 
The plot of the novel is difficult to describe, probably because there isn't much of one, especially not at the beginning of the book.  In fact, yesterday, I was reading it while waiting for the dentist to examine my teeth.  I was about 100 pages into the story when he asked me what The Homecoming of Samuel Lake was about.  My response?  "Um, hm, now that you mention it, I have no idea."  Which isn't to say the tale isn't interesting.  It is.  It's just that the author takes her time setting the stage for the main conflict of the story (which doesn't present itself until around Page 150).  With a less skilled writer, this could have been a problem.  But, Wingfield's lush, tantalizing prose charmed me so much that I almost forgot about plot altogether (until my dentist reminded me, that is).  Also, because the author gives the reader time to really get to know her characters before abusing them with savage plot twists, the reader cares and cares deeply about what happens to them.  The book's finale is an excellent case in point—I sobbed through the majority of the last 100 pages, because by then, the Moses Family felt like my own kin, their tragedies seemed like my own.  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake isn't a perfect book, mind you, but it's one of those you'll-laugh-you'll-cry-you'll-jeer-you'll-cheer kind of stories, the kind that touches your heart and makes you believe that no matter how much ugliness exists in this world, it will always be trumped by the beauty that lives here, too.     

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), mild sexual content, and violence (including the abuse of women, children and animals)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake from the generous folks at Random House via the lovely ladies at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!  

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