The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 May 2018

Member Reviews

Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.  I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Sam Hill was born with ocular albinism, which gave him the appearance of having red eyes.  Bullied throughout his life by both his peers and some adults, Sam's convictions and strength were buoyed by his mother's faith, his father's advice, and his small group of friends.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is a coming of age story with a great cast of characters.  Sam's parents provided a good balance for their son, as his mother's faith was tempered by his father's realistic view of the world.  Sam did not come to terms with his differences until later in the book, but it really was not the point of the novel.  The journey that Sam undertakes throughout his life, his view of the world and the people in his periphery, provides the novel with the wholeness of the character.  The broader strokes of the story reminded me of The Body by Stephen King, in its storytelling and the concept of coming of age through difficult circumstances.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell and would recommend it to other readers.
Was this review helpful?
I found myself getting lost in this story. It didn't take long for you to start to feel for Sam as he navigates life being different. People always assuming the worst of him. There are many points throughout this book that I felt heartbroken for him. I loved his character and the back story of his childhood. Its one of those novels that you never want to end, you just want to keep hearing more stories, more experiences, and getting to know the character.
Was this review helpful?
I am blown away at the character development of Sam Hell, Mickie, Ernie, Sam's Mom and Sam's dad. Everyone, do you see a pattern here? I felt this book and it's messages of acceptance, wanting to believe in a higher power and having faith when we're tested. I am a religious person and I think this is why this book resonated with me as much as it did. I think anyone can enjoy this book but if you're not religious this book may bother you some (just my opinion) as it is heavily rooted in faith and the belief in the higher power. Sam's spirit is broken so many times throughout this book, but I haven't seen a stronger faith told in a book than Sam's mother. No matter what she went through her faith could not be broken.

I really appreciated the way in which everyone mentioned in this book is wrapped up. We hear about old Donna Ashby and how even though time has passed, she is still battling the same demons she was before. Really all of the characters are this way. David Freemon, probably the saddest situation of them all. Depicting a story of child abuse that was never addressed and carried through to adulthood. 

Honestly this book is a testament to morals, how kind one should be to others and ultimately to oneself. Accepting differences about others and yourself and celebrating your "extraordinary" despite how others may see you/treat you. 

This book is just amazing.
Was this review helpful?
From birth, Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes and this colors the way he sees the world and the way the world sees him. Because he was born with red pupils, his classmates called him “Devil Boy” and Sam Hell. His adoring mother calls his eyes “God’s will” and “extraordinary.” Her words weren’t of much comfort to him but Sam did learn how to persevere and he was helped along with this by his mother’s devout faith , his father’s practical wisdom, and the other two misfits who befriended him. Sam truly believed that God had sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to provide the friend that he so desperately needed. He also believed that God sent Mickie Kennedy to blow through Our Lady of Mercy Catholic school like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had ever been taught about boys and girls. Forty years later, Sam’s become an eye doctor and is no longer as sure that everything happens by design—especially the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his dreams, his friends, and the life he’s always known. Running from his problems, with his eyes closed to his pain, has been pointless. Now, as he looks back over his life, Sam embarks on a journey that takes him around the world. But, now, his eyes are wide open, giving him the perspective to be able to see the events that defined him, his fears, and what truly matters. 

I’m a huge fan of Robert Dugoni’s writing, and have been greatly enjoying his Tracy Crosswhite series. But, this book is so vastly different from that series and , in my opinion, is even better. His talent at character development definitely shines through, as every single character is amazingly well written and developed. They’re all complex, damaged, and unique that I found myself captivated by every one, even the ones I loved to hate. Dugoni came up with such an amazing premise and unique perspectives. I couldn’t put this story down and was hooked from page one. I’d really love to see him write more books like this.
Was this review helpful?
Great book that makes you feel as if you really know the characters. My heart went out to Sam and all that he had to endure throughout his can me so mean sometimes. I admired the faith of the mother and how despite the hard things that came her way, she clung to her faith, even if her faith seemed to be a little misguided. I admired the fact that although she was saddened at some of the events in her life, she never seemed to get angry or bitter. 
My only frustration with this book was the amount of crass talk and actions. I feel like the story would be just as impactful without that. For me, it really distracted from the enjoyment of the reading. For this reason, I rated the book four stars as opposed to five.
Was this review helpful?
The synopsis is what initially drew me in. It sounded unique and slightly out of my reading comfort zone, but at the same time I was intrigued by the premise and wanted to find out more. Dugoni did not disappoint.

Sam has red pupils. Growing up he deals with bullies, teasing, and being a misfit. The book follows Sam into adulthood and going back and forth between the two.The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell touches on many things including family and friendship and though it is a quieter novel than I expected, I still enjoyed it.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of this from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely loved this book. It's a coming of age tale which actually tracks the life of Same Hell, the boy born with a rare genetic defect giving him red eyes. The story opens in the 1960's, USA, where we first meet Sam when his mother is trying to enroll him for Catholic school at age 6. This is only the start of the many trials and tribulations that Sam had to overcome and also endure.  
This novel seems to cover many serious topics, discrimination, being bullied, racism, sexism, sex, drugs, illness, love, betrayal and religion, all in such beautiful way. It chornicles Sam's life as well as his family, and his 2 best friends Ernie and Mickie. 
I loved the characters because I was really able to connect to them. The story was great and told really well. I didn't want it to end actually.
One of my favourite reads of the year.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Robert Dugoni, Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for an ARC of this book in return for my honest opinion.

I really enjoyed reading this book about Sam, a boy with ocular albinism.  The characters were well developed and the writing drew me in heart strings and all.  A very touching book, written by a ‘new to me ‘ author, who I look forward to reading more of his books.

Thank you I highly recommend this great book.
Was this review helpful?
I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did. This is the story about Sam Hill (nicknamed Sam Hell) who was born with ocular albinism, causing him to have red eyes. We start in his childhood when he is to enter a Catholic primary school in or near Palo Alto, CA. Sister Beatrice isn’t so accepting of Sam matriculating into the school because clearly, red eyes indicate the devil’s work. We follow him as he grows older and we see his friendships develop with his childhood friends, Ernie and Mickie. This story was sweet, with just the right amount of sarcasm and bite. It reads like a memoir and I often had to remind myself that this was a novel. Check this one out if you want just the right amount of “feel good” in your next read. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed the characters, and the story. But it got a bit too “preachy” towards the end. Sam gave up his practice to help the poor, his parents, his friends, enemies ... still a quick and enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

There comes a day in every man's life when he stops looking forward and starts looking back."

Although The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is not your typical Robert Dugoni novel, I found that I could not put it down all the same.  Where the Tracy Crosswhite series is fast-paced with suspense ratcheting up as you turn the pages, Sam Hell pulls at your heartstrings.  A coming of age novel about a young boy with ocular albinism, Sam Hell is about the tests of faith, abiding love and the perspective that only comes with time.  Based in part on the struggles faced by Dugoni's youngest brother, the tenacity in which his mother fought for him and the quiet strength exuded by his father,  The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is a touching story whose characters will linger with me for a long time.  

Special thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and Robert Dugoni for access to this title in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Definitely in my top 10 books of the year so far!!  I can't say enough good things about it.  This is by far Robert's best book and I'm saying that based on the fact that I have LOVED all his other books!!
Was this review helpful?
Sam Hill was born in 1957 with ocular albinism that gave him red pupils. He endured bullying and isolation at school before forging two friendships that lasted a lifetime.  This is one of those books that pulls at your heartstrings.  I highly recommend it!
Was this review helpful?
This is my first by this author and he did not disappoint! I have already ordered a few of his other books. Really good story that kept me wanting to finish in one sitting
Was this review helpful?
A well-crafted story with a heartwarming message, this book was a surprise departure from author Dugoni's previous titles. The straightforward story drew the reader in. Well done!
Was this review helpful?
At times you walk away from a book with feelings and emotions and then an hour, a day, a week later, you have forgotten all that you have read. However, there are some book that when you finish them, you know in your heart that they will never leave you. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell was just so a book.

This book transported this reader into a world where one can find that which seems to be escaping from our world today, that of human kindness, forgiveness, and love. I can not recommend this book more highly as it brings one a world of peacefulness, tears, love, and the telling of a story that moves one's heart and soul.
Was this review helpful?
Robert Dugoni is one of my favorite mystery/suspense authors and this was a totally unexpected pleasant surprise.  It's a coming of age story that is so endearing and with so many life lessons sprinkled throughout the novel that it will make you just sit there and ponder on what is being said. It shows how differences can make us stronger and more compassionate. The characters pull you into the story and have such an impact as if they were part of your life. I really liked how he went back and forth from childhood to present day. I just didn't want it to end and I hope that Mr. Dugoni will continue writing stories like these.  This book was as extraordinary as his character Sam Hell!!
Was this review helpful?
Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” 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.

* * * * *

Let me start of by say that I absolutely loved this book which was rather surprising since faith and the Catholic Church beliefs and traditions pop up frequently.   I actually had trouble reading the last few pages because of the tears in my eyes.  I didn't want to say good by to Sam and his friends.

I picked up this book because of the author.  Robert Dugoni is the author of one of my favorite police procedural series so I knew that I enjoy his writing style.  I really think that he outdid himself with THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL.  

Sam, his thoughts and his life were so beautifully portrayed that I felt that I was there.  That I knew him as well as I know myself.  That I was with him from the time that he was a child until the time he truly became an adult.  Through him, I got to experience going to a Catholic school, I was able to experience being bullied because he was different, growing up with two parents who loved him and each other, of losing and regaining my faith in a higher power.  

As you can probably tell, I do recommend this book to any of my readers.  I am still puzzling over what genre to slip this book into but it's tough.  The close as I can come is a coming of age story even though follows him from birth until his late thirties.  There is some violence and there is some sex but doesn't everyone have a bit of both in their lives?

***I received  this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own and not influenced by the publisher or author.
Was this review helpful?
This book read like a field trip through the realms of Catholic guilt. Comprising intolerance, adolescence and the search for faith, it was definitely an interesting read- if one that felt a little heavy-handed at times.

The story is that of Sam Hill (or Hell, as he’s quickly nicknamed): a boy born with a genetic mutation, ocular albinism, that has made his eyes turn red. (Cue much Googling of said red eyes.) With his religious mother determined that his eyes mark him out for greatness, Sam nevertheless endures bullying all through his childhood- and when, forty years later, that same bully comes back into his circle, he must decide how to act, and what the right thing to do is.

It sounds quite heavy, and at times it is- but I did enjoy it. Dugoni gives Sam a strong, likeable and slightly wry voice from the start that spans two different plot threads: that of his life as an adult doctor, and that recounting his childhood growing up in suburban America in a way that reads a little like John Irvine. This thorough exploration and exhumation of his demons comes to the forefront as we’re taken for a ride through Sam’s past, getting to know his family and friends along the way.

There isn’t an awful lot of plot here, but there doesn’t need to be: Dugoni’s focus is all on the characters, watching how they interact and develop, perhaps a bit like real life. It also offers a great way to explore themes like religion and intolerance in small-town America. It pays off, too, because you really invest in those characters- from Sam’s strong-willed, and stubborn, mother, whose love is tempered by some truly hilarious moments that had me sniggering at the page, to the growing romance between Sam and his childhood friend Mickie, which neither of them wants to address but which will give you a serious case of will-they-won’t-they syndrome.

Most of all, though, this is a book about faith, and Dugoni paints a wonderfully nuanced portrait of what it means to believe in today’s world- as nuanced as a stained-glass window. Sam’s attempts to reconcile the events in his life with ‘God’s will’, compared with his mother’s steadfast faith, leads to some quietly beautiful moments, and though some had me cringing slightly, the religious-redemptive arc is beautifully handled and feels natural and unforced.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. It has the small-town feel of many great American authors, with it’s own unique slant that will definitely get you thinking. Also, Sam Hill and his family are quite possibly the sweetest and most endearing family: you’ll fall in love with them!
Was this review helpful?
Robert Dugoni proves once again that he's a fantastic storyteller. He makes it impossible not to love the characters in this moving tale. I enjoyed the way he moved from past to present so that we as readers could see the impact of love and friendship. This was a easy story to connect with, and it definitely made a lasting impression.
Was this review helpful?