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The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A Novel Paperback – April 24, 2018
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Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s coming-of-age story is, according to Booklist, “a novel that, if it doesn’t cross entirely over into John Irving territory, certainly nestles in close to the border.”
Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.
Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.
Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design―especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open―bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.
Winner of Suspense Magazine’s Crimson Scribe Award.
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A Suspense Magazine Crimson Scribe Award Winner
A Goodreads Choice Award Semifinalist, Historical Fiction
An Amazon Best Book of the Month: Literature & Fiction Category
“This is the bestselling Dugoni’s masterpiece, the book by which his work, and that of others, will be measured for years to come.” —Providence Journal
“Dugoni has produced a novel that, if it doesn’t cross entirely over into John Irving territory, certainly nestles in close to the border…Told in two separate time lines (Sam as a boy, and Sam as a man) that eventually come together, and written in a gentle, introspective yet dramatic style that is very different from that of Dugoni’s crime fiction, this is an inspirational story of a man who spends a lifetime getting to know himself.” —Booklist
“Sam Hell is inspiring and aglow with the promise of redemption.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Robert Dugoni has a rare and brilliant talent for infusing his characters with complex emotions. It is very hard not to ache for young Sam…Frankly, this might be the best book of the year.” —Bookreporter
“Distinctly different in style from Dugoni’s typical fare, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, is a captivating and poignant journey of strength and the power of finding your true self. Without a doubt, this is Dugoni’s best yet.” —Suspense Magazine
“Dugoni’s writing is compellingly quick, simple, and evocative; readers will immediately empathize with young Sam and will race to discover how his story ends. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is a heartwarming novel that celebrates overcoming the unfairnesses of life.” —Seattle Book Review
Past Praise for Robert Dugoni:
“Dugoni is a superb storyteller…” —Boston Globe
“Dugoni has a gift for creating compelling characters and mysteries that seem straightforward, but his stories, like an onion, have many hidden layers.” —Associated Press
About the Author
Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series, including My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath, In the Clearing, The Trapped Girl, and Close to Home. The Crosswhite Series has sold more than 2,500,000 books worldwide, and My Sister’s Grave has been optioned for television series development. Dugoni is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane series, which includes The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, and The Conviction; the stand-alone novels The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, The 7th Canon, and Damage Control; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year; as well as several short stories. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for both the International Thriller Award and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award. His books are sold worldwide in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages, including French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Visit his website at www.robertdugoni.com, and follow him on Twitter @robertdugoni and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorRobertDugoni.
- Publisher : Lake Union Publishing (April 24, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 447 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1503948978
- ISBN-13 : 978-1503948976
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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as an ophthalmologist I am having to maintain a rather significant suspension of disbelief. There is no indication that Sam's ocular albinism affects his vision in any way - he apparently sees well enough to be an ophthalmologist, which is a highly unlikely event. This means that the novel deals with the social effects of someone who has red eyes, but not the reality of living with a disease which would certainly affect the patient's light sensitivity, vision and visual experiences.
To add insult to injury, the description of leaving a patient with a retinal detachment for a couple of weeks, when she should have surgery the same day, again demonstrates the lack of a knowledgeable medical advisor.
These factual errors don't ruin the story, but they did make it less believable and enjoyable for me.
Sam Hell is an inspiring tale about a boy born with ocular albinism, which makes his eyes appear red. His mother enrolls him in a Catholic school, where he quickly earns the nickname "Devil Boy." Sam faces bullies of all sizes and ages, and stands up to them with remarkable strength throughout his adult life. His enduring strength of character guides him through many tough life events near the end of the novel. This story made my own eyes cloud up at times. Sam Hell most definitely lives an extraordinary life.
When I encounter the word "literary" I tend to shy away. But knowing Dugoni as a thriller writer made me curious enough to pry into this one. Dugoni uses techniques usually reserved for thrillers to propel this story forward. The short chapters are his biggest improvements to the literary genre. He doesn't keep us in one scene long enough to get bored. Each scene shows a clear purpose and a real obstacle. I found myself saying "just one more," several times during each reading session. Readers know those are the type of books we love to discover.
I didn't find this to be an overtly religious book at all. Dugoni doesn't write preachy prose. The Catholic elements in the story appear more like part of Sam's life experience than as any type of religious message.
Of all the memorable lines I encountered in this book, the most powerful quote comes from Sam's father, just after Sam makes a particularly dumb decision:
"Don't ever think of yourself as being something less than the person you are because of your eyes, Sam. If you do, people will take advantage of it, and you'll find yourself doing things you don't want to do."
This is a story about self acceptance, redemption, the honor of family, and dignity in death. Dugoni explores all these themes using deceptively simple language and layered scenes. I've seen this book compared to the works of John Irving. That's high praise, but in this case it is well-deserved. I'm thrilled to have found an early copy of this book. Everyone needs to read Sam Hell.
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Anyway, I was very moved by this sensitively told tale about an American boy who is born with red eyes. As you would expect, his unusual appearance provokes major issues for him, particularly as a child. The story is actually told by the grown-up Samuel Hill. He starts from when he is a baby, and relates his Mum and Dad's recollections, his Mum's scrap-book diaries, family photographs, home movies, and his own memories to brilliantly flesh out his formative, and then later years. This really is writing of the highest order, and put me through a gamut of emotions as I slowly got to 'know' Sam and 'witness' the trials and tribulations that beset him throughout his life. I rarely succumb to tears when reading a novel, but I couldn't control shedding a few with this book. To redress the balance though, there is a fair degree of humour woven throughout this wonderful story.
I loved every moment I spent with this book and, in a way, was sorry to turn that very last page. This is one of those books that once in a while will come your way - and at such times, you need to give it the respect it deserves. So, if possible, find the time, the space, and the solitude to fully savour its contents - a comfy armchair, a large plate of biscuits, and a mug of freshly-brewed tea may also enhance the experience! I can't praise it enough. My advice: get you hands on a copy ASAP, read it, digest in and feel enriched by the experience.
I love 'spreading the word' after I've found a 'standout piece of fiction' which this most certainly is. On that note, if you have found my review of use, please feel free to hit that 'Helpful' button below. Such a positive gesture will not only make my day, it'll also remind me that people out there are actually reading what I post! - many thanks & enjoy your reading. 😊📖📚
We're used to tales of prejudice based on race, religion, disability, sexuality etc, but this book takes on unfair treatment of a boy for his eye colour and works as a bit of a morality tale.
This book is about the power of friendship between Sam and his best friends Ernie, the only black kid in school, and Mickie, the daughter of an alcoholic mother, and also a story of family love. Sam's mother is a wonderful, powerful, deeply religious woman who just won't take no for an answer.
The extraordinary life of the title is a life that's perhaps more extraordinary in its apparent ordinariness. A life made special by the attitude of its protagonist.
I enjoyed this a lot. Small town life with big time messages. Though I could have done with a bit less of the slightly preachy Catholic messages towards the end.