I told everyone that I thought it likely to be my favourite adult read of the year even though it was only February.
By the end of the year, I'd not changed my mind and now it's in paperback with a new, and I think better, jacket.
I'm happy to repeat my review from that time -
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
by Jenny Wingfield
by Jenny Wingfield
Paperback at £7.99
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, comprising his three children 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 the front of the house run as a store and the rear as an 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 characters, to life, in just a few words 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. Raz Ballenger, horse beater, wife beater, child beater and far worse, would be a close companion of Jonas Chuzzlewit, Quilp, and Mr Squeers. He is so realistically portrayed, that Nina was seriously upset by the book because of him. That, in my mind, is the measure of Jenny Wingfield’s writing, for she has given us the good and the bad and made them both equally believable. She has produced a host of memorable characters and a plot that neatly dovetails them all together leaving nothing unsaid. It is mostly amusing, sometimes moving, always involving, briefly terrifying and, finally, completely satisfying.