Review: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

This review marks the third (yes, third) 5-star rave of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by a Literary Hoarder.  If that doesn’t make you drop what you’re doing to find a copy of your own, then I’m not sure what will.

Be warned: if you start reading Jenny Wingfield’s enveloping novel, you won’t be able to stop.  Clear your calendar.  Reading this gripping tale is all you will want to do until you turn the last emotionally charged, satisfying page.

My fellow Hoarders have previously explained in detail what this tale encompasses.  A close-knit, multi-generation Arkansas family comes to exist under one roof.  Samuel Lake, a Preacher, his wife Willadee, and their three precocious children move in with Willadee’s mother, Calla Moses.  Calla, who has recently (and tragically) lost her husband John, welcomes the company. Reading about this wonderful family is enough to keep the pages turning well into the night.  It’s their “neighbor,” however, who will make you chew your nails to the quick.

Ras Ballenger is one blink short of the devil.  Evil seeps from his pores.  Anger is his mood.  Abuse is his calling.  These traits would be difficult enough to swallow, if this man did not have a family.  His young wife is often his victim. His youngest son manages to evade his rage by mimicking Ras’ every move (in sheer admiration).  Unfortunately, it’s the sweet and innocent 8-year old son Blade who most often bears the brunt of Ras Ballenger’s abuse.  Blade will tug at your heartstrings.  He’ll make you peek ahead to future paragraphs to see if he’s going to be ok.

He’ll also prove that there’s always hope, when he discovers that it is actually possible to live without being terrorized.  It’s here that the daughter of Sam and Willadee, Swan Lake, becomes Blade’s savior.

There are parts of this novel that are difficult.  You’ll want to holler “watch out!” at critical moments.  You’ll want to hold the hurt, and will want to save the helpless.  Luckily, you’ll have Swan on your side.  She’s eleven years old, and you will be eternally grateful that she has no patience for injustice.

What Swan intended to do was rescue Blade Ballenger.  It had been three days now, and she was through fooling around.

Swan Lake is a character who you will not soon forget.  She’s proof positive that bravery comes in all shapes and sizes.  She’s also testament that one person can make a difference.  Wingfield writes her carefully, sharing great detail regarding Swan’s capacity to love, her compassion for people, and her strong faith.  In short, Swan Lake is remarkable.  

I need to note that there are many heroes in this book.  Calla Moses, Toy Moses, Samuel Lake… each person had much to contribute to the story.  Truly, I think the book’s overwhelming charm is in how so many of the characters become champions in their own right, as they each found their calling.  Jenny Wingfield absolutely shines as she opens these characters up for observation, and gives the reader the opportunity to watch them mature, develop, and discover new levels of strength.  Overall, when Blade is encircled by the protective arms of his incredible neighbors, you’ll want to cheer.

The way the characters of this novel care for one another is proof that there are miracles.  Sometimes, the biggest miracle of all is kindness.  Sometimes, if you pay attention, miracles unfold in your presence.  Wingfield offers it all.

Swan heard everything.  She heard when her father started calling on God, and she heard it when God answered.

Will you be listening?

5 heartfelt stars for The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield.  Can’t wait for her next book!