The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. Finished 9-3-15, rating 5/5, southern fiction,344 pages, pub. 2011
Unabridged audio read beautifully by Catherine Taber. 10 hours, 30 minutes
Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” 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. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John.
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 it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father. from Goodreads
In 2012 I won this book from the gushing Lisa at Southern Girl Reads and it finally made it to the top of my reading list. Why, oh why, do I wait so long to read the books I win because the blogger loves them so much? (take heart Lloyd, The Language of Flowers will be coming to the top of my reading pile soon :)) I started listening to this because that is how much of my reading happens these days, but there were times that I had to pick up the book and read ahead because I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. This is Southern fiction at its best and it’s a debut novel too.
I know that the synopsis from Goodreads focuses on Swan, but I fell in love with this entire family. Set in 1950’s Arkansas it brings to life a simpler, yet harsher time. A time when playing in the woods with your siblings filled the days and men being able to put food on the table made them worry at night. It was a coming of age summer for Swan, her brothers, and neighbor Blade, but even the adults went through a metamorphoses. Swan will win your heart with her spirit, but so will Toy, probably my favorite character. He was the solid and intimidating uncle who was known for killing a man and getting away with it and the kids loved him. Samuel, the preacher without a church, spent much of the book as peripheral character for me, one I didn’t understand much until he too became as sympathetic as Toy.
There was not a false word in this book. It was honesty infused in warmth and it made me smile and it broke my heart. If you like Southern fiction you cannot go wrong with this book. This is not the type of story I usually pass on to my husband, but I did because it is sure to be a favorite at the end of the year and he loved it too. One night he even quoted from it while making a joke. That alone should be recommendation enough 🙂