Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Readers who love southern-fried characters suffering a heap of misery alongside precocious children who lead their elders into doing what’s right will devour this beach book.  Fannie Flagg and Dorothea Benton Frank aficionados will fly through the pages while enjoying the humor and the fact that the “good” people triumph.  I don’t happen to be one of those readers. I appreciate the author’s ability to describe the land cinematically. She’s a screenwriter who wrote The Man in the Moon and The Outsider and I like the dialogue that moves the book along but I wanted more fully developed characters.  Other than Swan Lake (yes, that truly is the name of the child protagonist – and no, the reason she got the moniker isn’t explained), a Huck Finn of a 1950s girl, the characters all seem to be cardboard caricatures of good or evil Southerners.

Samuel Lake, a preacher who’s lost his pulpit due to speaking the truth, moves to the farm where his wife’s family is grieving a loss that should cause them to question themselves but seems only to make them want to preserve the past. Daughter Swan finds Blade, a neighbor boy who needs her help, as she avoids Blade’s “Old Testament” evil father.  The sins of the fathers of both families hover over the action like a smothering fog that threatens an evil storm.   If you like action, this book has it with rape, suicide, wife beatings, adultery, murder and even kitten killing.

Summing it Up: Read this if you like good-old Southern charm, engaging children and evil characters who get what’s coming to them.  Skip it if you prefer more literary fiction.

Rating: 3 stars   

Category: Fiction, Grits and Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Publication date: July 12, 2011

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