The Portrait of Samantha Yale
a novel by James Russell Lingerfelt
Blake is unlike any boy Samantha has ever known.
In a small Tennessee town in 1999, high school senior Blake McNamara is the son of a moonshiner and cares nothing for football or politics. He’s Captain of the Jr ROTC, has his sights set on West Point, and dreams of retiring one day as a military officer.
Samantha Yale is the daughter of a United States Senator. She obeys the rules, dresses in a conservative 1950s style, wears thick eyeglasses, and has never been asked out on a date. But she doesn’t mind. She wants nothing more than to live life expressing her love of art through her paintings.
The two never speak to each other and couldn’t be more different among their classmates. But when Blake and Samantha are teamed up for a school art project, they’ll soon learn that the people and experiences we first encounter are rarely what they seem...
And that’s exactly where their adventure begins.
"On that first day, Mrs. Moore asked Samantha to show us a painting she’d been working on since early summer. When Samantha removed a linen sheet from her easel, she had painted herself in a crimson gown. In the image, she wore some make-up, which I’d never seen her wear before.
Her hair was washed and straight, and her glasses were gone. Those blue eyes, that red, and that magnificent light. It looked so real, like we were staring at a photograph. The red she used was akin to Rembrandt. The light, how she could create it to look so balanced, I was baffled. We all were.
And Samantha had mixed the paints herself. No kidding. I'd never even heard of someone making their own paint. It was amazing, really. I didn’t know jack squat about paintings back then, but I knew that what she had created was great. And that’s when I realized I had never actually seen any of Samantha’s art. I had glimpsed parts of half finished projects here and there, you know, pieces in the making. But never a finished one.
As Samantha spoke about it in front of the class, with the ease and confidence of someone who had talked in front of groups of people all of her life, I raised my hand. I asked how she made everything look so realistic. Samantha giggled, and she hid her smile with her hand. Her eyes shined, and I noticed that she was… pretty. But in her own way.
I’ll never forget that. Because in that moment, I believe, it was the very first time I noticed Samantha Yale."