Review: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni

About the book, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

 

  • Hardcover: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 24, 2018)

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.

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About the author, Robert Dugoni Robert Dugoni

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.

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My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve read several of Robert Dugoni’s novels, and enjoyed all of them, so when I was given the chance to read this novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, before it was actually released, I eagerly accepted.

As all the press about this novel is saying, it’s a departure from Dugoni’s usual fare. Rather than a mystery or thriller, this is a very personal coming-of-age novel that deals with friendship and love as well as the way different people experience ‘otherness’ whether it’s because they’re a girl, or have different skin color, or have oddly colored eyes.

As always, Dugoni’s use of language is what really caught me. Like Hemingway, he uses simple language, but it’s well chosen, and delicately crafted. Unlike Hemingway, there’s something really dimensional about the characters Dugoni has created. Sam, the POV character, is obviously the one who is drawn most vividly, but Ernie and Mickie are equally real, their dialogue natural and believable.

Dugoni excels at plot – a skill he honed with those afore-mentioned mysteries and thrillers – and it really shows here. This novel is perfectly paced, never plodding, never racing too quickly toward a conclusion. Overall, it was a compelling story and a greatly satisfying read.

Goes well with a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a touch of honey, served on organic, multigrain toast.

 

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Review: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.