Member Reviews

When I tell you that this book made me remember almost every single thing about growing up, good and bad, I am not exaggerating.

Sam is about a young girl who goes from age seven to eighteen and all the craziness that comes with it. We watch as Sam goes from a funny and bold little girl, an angry teenager and finally a confused but ambitious young woman, ready to live her own life. The book also highlights Sam's relationship with her father, which is heartbreaking throughout her childhood. Her Dad introduces her to rock climbing, which is a huge theme in the book. Her climbing and the events that happen in her life are closely connected, depicting how growing up as a girl into a young woman can be exhilarating and fraught with danger at the same time.

Sam is a very fast read because the writing is simple (not the way you think) but emotional. I found myself thinking about my own childhood and relationships with my own parents while reading this book. I related to Sam when she just wanted to play, when she wanted to be alone, when she wanted to be the best, when she wanted to be seen by the boy she liked. By the end, I wanted her to be whatever she wanted and to be free.

I definitely recommend this book to my readers.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Sam is a coming of age novel that follows her through her teenage years.

Her dad is not around much and her mom struggles to take care of her, but wants the best for her.

This book was just so so to me.

I almost didn't finish it, but end up powering thru.

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This is the first book I’ve read by this author. What a fascinating time I had following the main character from age 7 through her post-high school years! This girl felt so real to me. I could understand her mother’s thinking, too, though. This was like reading a biography, but knowing it’s a fictional character.

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It's rare an author can capture the complexity of an individual as they grow from childhood into a young adult, let alone the relationships and dynamics of the people closest to them. The author does an incredible job of this, rendering each character as wholly themselves—flawed and shining each in their own way—and particularly through the voice of the main character, Sam.

Sam's pain, innocence, longing, and confusion are so realistic and relatable, especially in that way a young person can be utterly unable to see their own strengths and brilliance. You can see how hard she tries to connect and how quickly she shuts herself down, and really feel what it's like to be both admired and ostracized, loved and misunderstood, valued and taken for granted.

I don't want to give too much away, but this study in contrasts, and in the absolute contradictory and chaotic nature of being a human, is a beautiful, painful reminder that what it means to love someone can be one of the loneliest experiences in the world.

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When Courtney Summers says a book is a must-read, I listen. And wow, am I glad I did! SAM is a devastatingly beautiful bildungsroman with a heroine you desperately want to give a hug (though she'd surely resist it). Goodman's ability to subtly evolve Sam's voice as the novel continues is truly remarkable, as is her ability to make me want to read from behind covered eyes as I watched Sam jump headfirst into the mistakes that so many of us make as young women. Brutally beautiful and beautifully realist, SAM is certainly a novel I'll recommend.

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SAM by Allegra Goodman is a coming of age story about a young girl who loves competitive climbing and it should have wide appeal, evidenced in part by its selection as a Read with Jenna book. The story share events in Sam's life for over a dozen years from the age of seven when she innocently adored her father, an unreliable parent who is in and out of Sam's life. Her mother, Courtney, is forever preaching about hard work and importance of security. Goodman builds on these relationships (plus with Sam's classmates and her brother, Noah) to introduce ideas about parenting, social class, addiction, and self-worth, all told in Sam's gradually maturing voice. Goodman excels at evoking emotions as the story arcs from innocence to a rather bleak reflection of a sexually predatory relationship to an ultimately hopeful resolution fueled by Sam's determination and perseverance. High school students and adults will relate to this character and those who care about her as Goodman quietly shares wisdom like "choose joy" or this interaction when Sam questions her Mom: "'How do you know what to do?' 'I don’t always know.' 'Yes, you do.' 'Yeah, that's how you can tell you're an adult,' her mom says. 'People start thinking you know what you are doing.'"

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𝗦𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝘁’𝘀 𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗵𝗲’𝘀 𝗳𝗮𝗿 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗼𝘂𝗰𝗵. 𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻’𝘁 𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗶𝗺.

This is a painful coming of age. We meet Sam at the age of 7, with a single mother, a dad who is ‘sort of around, sort of not’, and a two-year-old half-brother named Noah. Sam’s lucky that she has her father Mitchell all to herself, life always seems brighter with him. In fact, the first time she scales a great height is on a tower at the fair her father takes her to. It is Mitchell who tells her how tough climbing will be, how it’s an art, not just a sport. Her father is amazing, he knows everything, writes poems, can play any instrument and does magic. He promises to teach her climbing, her mother wants her to focus on an education, but with Mitchell as her coach she just knows she will succeed, become famous one day.

They live in a small house that Noah’s grandparents bought, his father Jack is moving back in to make things work, Sam doesn’t like him, and the feeling is mutual, things will get worse. Her father is moving away, Jack and her mother have a falling out, but there is still the Y and her climbing team. Climbing was meant to be about her father, something they could work at together, she clings to it despite the disappointment when he leaves her to be trained by her coach Kevin. As time goes by, she does worse in school, mad that her mother won’t let her climb until her studies improve. Her mom asks her, does she want to have to struggle when she grows up, not have any choices, work two jobs like she does? Her father’s shine is dimming in her eyes, why won’t he try harder? Why can’t he get it together? Her poor mother isn’t doing much better, despite how hard she works. She must fight Noah’s father, who has his parent’s money to back him, Sam can’t stand to see her mother have to beg for a morsel of kindness. Years collect and her father’s addiction and attempts at recovery leave an abyss of need in Sam. She channels that need into Declan, her new, attentive climbing coach, and begins to harbor secrets, every moment they are together she is baffled by their relationship. She learns to lie, to her mother, to herself. Her brother Noah is having serious difficulties too, but how can he get help with a father like Jack, who does more harm than good? Her entire world is a thing to be scaled, she seems to stumble more than reach any summit. The adults around her falter, even her mother who believes boring is good and works so hard to care for them, tries to educate Sam about how important the present is to gain a future rich in choices. Things keep falling apart and the obstacles are mounting. There is agony watching the faith she has in her father wither, as he lets her down over and over. This is Sam’s coming of age, lessons in pain, trust, betrayal, faith and learning that sometimes you have to chose yourself above everything else.

It’s an interesting story centering on the pain having an absent father presents, particularly the attention young children crave when it’s lacking and the sour places they find it. It’s evident in Noah and his callous father too, how hard it is for children to thrive when the adults are broken. As for the relationship between Sam and her coach, it’s too easy to abuse innocence and kids are quick to blame themselves. The harried mother who, despite her best efforts, doesn’t have the time nor support to raise her children and watch them like a hawk shows how easy it is to go off track. I felt sad reading this, Sam’s experiences come too early, life just kicks her around, but in the end it just might make her more determined to reach for a better future.

Published January 3, 2023

Random House

The Dial Press

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I read an advance copy of this book thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I alternated listening to the audiobook with reading the e-book. The author did a great job bringing the characters to life, and I thought she painted a very realistic portrait of a young woman growing up under difficult circumstances. I had read some of the author's previous books and liked them very much, but I am less enthusiastic about this one because of the somewhat depressing subject matter and being less interested in books about kids and teenagers. Sadly, I think the book is very representative of the lives of many young people, making it a worthwhile read.

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I loved Sam, a tender and sometimes rough look at a girl's life. I liked the progression of the writing style as Sam got older. While her story was heart-breaking at times, I loved seeing her grow up. Very well-written.

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Sam was my first book by Allegra Goodman and I was blown away by the writing. I was not really sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up loving it. I don’t have kids and this story doesn’t really have a “plot” but I still think it was a really great read. I think the author’s note at the beginning of the book, explaining her thought process really helped me enjoy the story more. I will definitely be looking to read more from Allegra Goodman!

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Sam is a coming of age Novel about a girl who rock climbs and loses her father to drug addiction. I usually love quiet coming of age but this one was just ok for me. There’s love and finding oneself and some tragedy but I never really connected with Sam. I think in part because I have issues with angsty teens in general. I think this will do ok and since it’s a Jenna pick it’ll get a lot of press but I don’t see it being on any best of lists.

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Well that was beautiful. The author does a masterful job of writing in the voice of the character as they age. This would be a perfect book club discussion choice - things everyone can relate to in some way and come together to share and grow closer. I’m rooting for Sam. Kinda sad the book is over - she’s someone I want to keep an eye on and celebrate. Brava to Allegra Goodman. Go read this. Thanks to Random House. What a gift this book is.

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The writing is good, but there's something about it that kind of annoys me. As in, we're always told things about characters rather than the reader learning things about a character through their actions and words. And not much happens, and I know this is a low stake book, but it's also coming of age and I guess I was expecting a bit more. Good writing but just didn't vibe with me.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Random House, and Allegra Goodman for allowing me to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Life is often a struggle for Sam, a young girl growing up in a one parent home where money is scarce, her younger brother is defiant, and Sam just doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, especially with her classmates in their designer clothes. Sam loves nature, climbing, her best friend, Halle, and the father, suffering addiction, she rarely gets to see. Her mom, Courtney, works several jobs, never complaining, just working for a good life for her kids, but is often the sounding board for Sam’s frustrations.

Navigating an inappropriate relationship with a climbing instructor, trying to navigate a relationship with her father, and circling around to what she wants most out of life isn’t always easy. A college professor will help build her confidence and encourage her studies, a best friend will remind her of her of what she is capable of doing, and a boy who recognizes her true worth will make her circle complete.

I enjoyed reading this book.

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I really enjoyed reading Sam and it was another great book to kick off the new year. I think I read this whole book in two sittings.

Sam starts when main character Sam is seven years old. The narrative voice mimics that of a seven year old and changes accordingly as Sam grows up. It did take some getting used to, but I really loved that the author did this. It made it easier to connect to Sam and made her seem real. Though Sam is a bit of a loner we get looks into all of the meaningful relationships she develops over the course of her adolescence and how they help shape her as a person. I loved how climbing was a constant throughout. The constant falling down and getting back up again was a good metaphor for Sam’s life.

This was a engaging coming of age story that I found super relatable. Sam was an easy character to root for and I saw a bit of myself in her. She has a lot of love for her mother and younger brother, and grows up quickly due to their circumstances. Their home life and her absent father weigh heavy on her. Even at a young age Sam struggles a lot to find her way in life, and that only grows when she reaches adulthood. My heart broke for her a few times, especially towards the end.

Thank you to NetGalley and Dial Press for a review copy.

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It's been a long while since Allegra Goodman has published a new book. I 've enjoyed her beautiful writing style sine 2009's Kaaterskill Falls and the very different The Chalk Artist written and published shortly before the emergence of Covid. I've been very impressed with books written by favorite authors* during that time, and here is another one. Goodman is identified in some reviews as a writer of women's fiction. Don't believe it. Read a sample and go on from there to fall in love with Sam.

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This is the first Allegra Goodman book I've read and I enjoyed it greatly. It's a smooth read that covers Sam's life from age seven until her college years. Yet, it is concise and rather than bogging the reader down in details Goodman adeptly paints a picture of Sam's life through her thoughts, fears, likes and dislikes. Her family appears dysfunctional with many obstacles in the way of success. Her mother both shines for her efforts and her humanity. Sam's path isn't an easy one but almost against her will she is drawn to what will ultimately fulfill her. Her story feels very real and readers will identify with her struggle. It would be an excellent choice for a book club.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. It's quietly on fire!

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Sam by Allegra Goodman is a beautiful and powerful coming-of-age novel. Goodman's novel is simple in its style but incredibly thoughtful, engaging, and genuine. Seeing Sam grow and learn from age 7 to age 19 was a remarkable journey. Her story is heartbreaking at times - but her inner strength always shines through and she finally believes in herself and has hope for the future. An excellent read. Thank you to Dial Press, Random House, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.

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Oh my goodness I loved Sam. The book Sam obviously, but the character Sam…. I saw myself in her, I saw my friends in her, I want to be her friend or just an anonymous donor so she doesn't ever have to stress about another thing ever. I cannot believe how good a job Allegra Goodman did with creating and building the story of Sam.

But before I rave some more, let me tell you what this book is about. Simply stated, it's about a young girl named Sam growing up. We begin with Sam as she is 7 years old and we stick with her as she learns lessons, deals with turmoil and chaos outside of her control, and figures out who she is. Basically, that's it! If you enjoy coming of age stories, this one's definitely for you. Also there is a lot of climbing and bouldering. It's pretty much Sam's only hobby, but even if you don't care about climbing, it's definitely fun to read about Sam getting better and better. It's also very much a metaphor for Sam growing up, and it feels perfect for this story.

The coolest thing about this book was how it was narrated. As I explained, we start off with our main character being 7 years old, and end when she's almost 20. At each stage, it feels genuinely like a 7, 13, or 19 year old is thinking, feeling, and behaving. It's done so well and feels so real. For those who steer clear of child narration, It's told in 3rd person so it never gets annoying. And I have to say Sam is just a generally not-annoying child, which is pretty impressive writing if you ask me.

Sam certainly does not have it easy growing up. She's dealing with messy but well meaning parents, money issues, transportation issues, loneliness, and that's just at 7! Her life just gets more complicated and, frankly, sad as she gets older. Though this is at times heart breaking, Goodman does such a great job of almost brushing over things. That isn't to say we don't really sit in the sadness and experiences of Sam, but just as Sam's life progresses (just as in real life), time continues. It was strangely the least stressed I've been reading about a depressing story.

There are definitely uplifting moments as well. Because just as with climbing [I'm about to hit you over the head with the climbing metaphor, strap in], you fall and struggle and scrape your knees in life. But eventually you get to the top [actually I would be splayed out flat, dying on the ground because I have negative upper body strength. But you get the idea].

I am so glad I read this, and honestly I'm sad this story is at an end because I grew very attached to Sam. I haven't had that feeling in a long time, so if you're searching for a "but what happens to them next??" kind of book-yearning, pick Sam up pronto!

4.5 out of 5

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Sam is growing up in a single parent household with a mother that does her best, a younger brother with special needs and an absentee father on the outskirts with addictions. Sam adores her father, but he’s not always there for her. At the age of seven he introduces her to climbing, something that anchors her throughout her growing up years. Not really interested in school, her mom pushes her to buckle down with plans for college (something she, herself, missed out on). Sam has her own agenda, but also wants to please her mom. It’s not until she agrees to go to college that she finally figures out what she wants to do with her life, but will her mom ever forgive her? Sam is a beautifully written coming of age story about a girl with an indomitable spirit. One who preserves through thick and thin and finds herself in the process. Sam is a character that will stay with you long after the last page is turned and leave you wishing for more. Thank you to The Dial Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

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