Reviewed by Meg Massey

An annual reunion brings preacher Samuel Lake, his wife Willadee and their three children back to their hometown in Columbia County, Arkansas. Willadee and the children are enjoying their time with the family, but in the midst of the reunion, patriarch John dies suddenly, and Samuel discovers that he’s lost his parish. The Lake family decides to stay in town, both to help the extended family recover from the loss of John, and to decide what direction to take with their lives.

As the rest of the story unfolds, we discover that John and the rest of the Moses clan are an important part of their community. As owners of a bar/store called Never Closes, the family came into contact with many people over the years, providing solace, encouragement, and a place to find some peace when it was needed. When John dies, Willadee, against her husband’s wishes, decides to help out around the bar. With Willadee gone during the night, Samuel decides to begin a tent revival, all the while contemplating his place his life, his faith and where to go next. And when a temptation from the past threatens to overcome him, will he be able to resist?

Jenny Wingfield’s The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is a beautifully written story about faith, forgiveness and redemption. A colorful cast of characters makes this story one to remember, and the storyline is both engaging and at times quite surprising. Despite her strange name, you’ll fall in love with Sam and Willadee’s daughter, Swan Lake, a young lady who captures the attention of everyone she meets. You’ll also relate to Uncle Toy, a complex man with a difficult past and a loveless marriage. But most of all, you’ll be moved and shaken by the story of Blade Ballenger, a young boy in the community whose dangerous father irrevocably changes the lives of everyone in the Moses family.

But despite the tragedies that occur in this novel, Wingfield brilliantly brings the story to a close with a sense of hope, and the feeling that life continues, even after a season of loss. Many have compared this story to To Kill a Mockingbird, and after reading it, I can certainly say that I see a striking similarity: this tale will stay with you for days after you finish reading, so much so that you may have to pick it up again.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between on her blog.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House Trade Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.