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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

With good old-fashioned storytelling, Jenny Wingfield sets up a classic struggle between good and evil in small town Arkansas. Homecoming has been widely compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, and its young protagonist, Swan, to Scout Finch. High praise!

Although this is Wingfield’s debut novel, she is an experienced screenwriter, best known for “The Man in the Moon” starring Reese Witherspoon.

WINGFIELD, Jenny. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake: A Novel. 353p. Random. 2011. Tr $25. ISBN 9778-0-385-34408-1. LC number unavailable.  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Adult/High School–When Papa John Moses decided to kill himself at the family reunion that summer of 1956, he left behind his wife, Calla; their son, Toy; and their daughter Willadee, her pastor husband Samuel Lake, and their three children: Swan, Noble, and Bienville. He also left behind his farm and the two businesses that kept it afloat: the general store and the all-night “Never Closes” bar. After Samuel learns that he no longer has a parish church to lead, he and Willadee decide to stay with Calla and Toy to help run the farm. The Lake children explore their surroundings with the innocence of childhood and the surety of their family’s love and care. But when their neighbor is shown to be a brute and bully to his son, wife and animals, Swan intervenes and discovers that not every family is like her own. Her intervention sets off a series of actions that changes everybody, and the intensity of the neighbor’s evil creates an edge-of-your-seat reading experience. Peopled with a rich array of characters and with a setting readers can almost touch, this novel is supremely crafted and compelling. Eleven-year-old Swan carries the day with her optimism and her inability to accept things as they are. Samuel Lake recalls the worlds created in books such as To Kill a Mockingbird or The Lovely Bones. Teens who like those books will surely be attracted to this one because it draws from the same understanding of place and time, and features characters who stay with their readers.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Angela Carstensen says:

    Nice article about the author on Shelf Awareness today: