The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake - Jenny Wingfield

This is one of those "It's not the book, it's me" times. This is a well-written book with beautifully atmospheric prose, and I would by no means try to persuade people not to read it (unless you dislike religious fiction or are triggered by suicide, child abuse, spousal abuse, animal abuse, or rape--in which case, steer clear. The descriptions aren't too graphic, but it basically starts with a suicide and goes downhill from there). I enjoyed the writing style and the meandering Southern storytelling, but I struggled to connect with any of the characters.

 

I also struggled with the names. Not being from the South and having missed the 50s by a couple of decades, having characters named Toy (a grown-ass man named Toy), Noble, Bienville, and Swan Lake (poor child) made it feel a little bit like I was reading bad To Kill a Mockingbird fanfiction in spite of the quality writing. It was distracting.

 

I almost decided not to finish this book several times. When I was halfway through I thought I could see where it was headed, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go there. Because the writing was so good, I kept reading. I can't say I regret it, though the ending left me somewhat dissatisfied, but maybe not for the reason the author intended. I don't want to get spoilery, so I'll just say that amid the climax of all that triggering brutality I mentioned in the first paragraph, the religious aspect took a weird turn, and then the aftermath of that left me scratching my head and wondering if I was getting the message I was supposed to be getting.

 

TL;DR: Gorgeous, atmospheric writing, but the story turned out not to be my cuppa. I'd definitely give this author another chance in the future, though.