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This novel presents the story of Sam, as she grows from a child of seven to her early adulthood. Along the way, Sam navigates family challenges, including a father who comes in and out of her life and a mother determined that Sam not make the same mistakes she did. But Sam does not always fit into the expectations of her mother and teachers. She is more comfortable pursuing her passion for climbing than for school or the more typical activities of teenagers. As Sam figure out how to make her way in a world that seems full of obstacles, she learns there is often more than meets the eye to her mother, her brother, the boys in her life, her father and, perhaps most of all, herself.

This is a thoughtful and perceptive look at the life of a young person at the formative stages of her life.

Highly recommended!

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The blurb for Sam calls it "deceptively simple," and that couldn't be more true. On the surface, this book is easy to describe: We meet a girl named Sam as a child at age 7, and we follow her through adolescence and her teenage years until age 19. The timeline is chronological, and the storytelling is straightforward and matter-of-fact, with spare, simplistic sentences. It is, simply, a story about a girl becoming a woman. But beneath the surface, Allegra Goodman is doing so much more.

Sam is a deeply intimate, layered character study that explores, in ways both subtle and overt, what happens to a young girl's wonder and innocence as she comes of age and is increasingly at the mercy of her circumstances. Sam is a character that will get under your skin. She loves her father, but struggles with the fact that he is so undependable. She loves her mother, but is frustrated by her mother's constant pressure and insistence that Sam plan for a secure future. She loves climbing, but doesn't understand until it's too late that there are boundaries she shouldn't cross. She is stubborn and willful, headstrong and determined, but there is a tender vulnerability at her core. As she grows up, her choices and actions feel authentic based on the events that happen in her life.

As Sam ages, writing that felt simplistic at first gradually deepens and matures along with the book's themes. Goodman does this so subtly that you can't pinpoint the exact moment that it happens -- it just suddenly does. Just like you can't pinpoint the exact moment a girl becomes a woman -- she just suddenly does. Sam is powerful and richly-realized, with thoughtful reflections about addiction, parenthood, class, and ambition. Most of all, it's a book about the indomitable determination of one girl who, literally and figuratively, refuses to stop climbing.

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A thoughtful coming of age story told by Sam who grows from a child to a young woman over the course of the novel. Her life is always slightly on the edge- her father is mostly absent and completely unreliable due to his addition, her brother Noah is neurodiverse, and her mom Courtney is trying to keep all the balls in the air while her partner, father of Noah is abusive and obnoxious. Rock climbing becomes Sam's touchstone- and yes the metaphor works. Unlike some novels with this scenario, this never gets too grim and there's always a bit, I think of hope. The writing might feel simplistic at first but know that it expands as Sam's voice grows. While it felt very different from Goodman's usual, it's a worthy read and Sam's a character I suspect many will identify with, Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Excellent read.

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Disappointed, I found Sam to be just a mediocre read. It is a coming of age story for Sam, whom we meet first as a 7-year-old, joyful in childhood yet always yearning for the presence of her often-absent father and see her life struggles until she is 19. Her dad introduces her to the life of climbing at a young age which metaphorically, shows how she can focus through the pain to reach for her dreams. Living with her mother, her younger brother, in her mother’s boyfriend’s house, Sam struggles to belong in this dysfunctional family and in the world as she yearns for the American Dream. Climbing becomes her saving grace and her escape. Character driven, it holds your attention as you come to understand Sam through her narrative, but unfortunately it didn’t hold my attention for long. Just okay.

Many thanks to #netgalley #sam #randomhouse for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Classic bildungsroman. The straightforward writing style with clean sentences and unfussy word choices fit Sam's character. The reader grows up with Sam, encountering through her world view a contained circle of key relationships, with family members and just beyond. Occasionally, we separate enough to see Sam's limitations, to wish more for her.

Her father introduces Sam to the American Dream, to climbing--a metaphor that's a bit on the nose, but still works fine: climbing higher and smarter, ever-learning and growing stronger, getting back up after the failure of a fall. Climbing simply and directly describes Sam's life, relationships, and dreams. The ending, though predictable, is satisfying.

A good, immersive read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced reader copy.

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This is a deep character study following a girl from childhood through early adulthood. It has a distinctive prose style, with mostly short, declarative sentences. Once you get used to it you feel that it suits Sam. I found it surprisingly easy to sink into. It never feels like Sam starts as a joyful child and that something shifts or is lost. Instead, Sam's life always feels tricky, like a balancing act. Sam's parents aren't together and her dad isn't around much. Even when he is, he isn't in a situation to care for Sam for more than a few hours. Her mom's on-and-off boyfriend, who is the father of Sam's younger brother, is abusive to Sam. This instability dominates Sam's childhood, she finds solace once she discovers rock climbing and that becomes a safe harbor.
Sam's choices all feel real and well informed, it's a thorough portrait and never one where you find a false note. Sam is loyal to her mom despite teenage disagreements, feeling obligated to help her always-struggling family. She struggles with fitting in and figuring out what to do with her life. Her romantic life comes in fits and starts, sometimes unwanted, sometimes inappropriate. Ultimately it's thorough and well drawn, I guess I wanted something a little more. The ending feels too neat, an easy place to end, as if right now things are tied up nicely though they didn't feel truly that way to me.
*Special thanks to NetGalley and DIal Press for this e-arc.*

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This book was so beautifully written, I absolutely adored it. I found the relationships between the characters realistic and, at times, heartbreaking. So many people can relate to at least one character in this story, if not all of them at some point. I think for me what really sold me on this one was the way Sam’s interest in climbing took shape in her future interest in all things earth science and rocks. Definitely going to look into more Allegra Goodman novels.

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Sam, a new novel by Allegra Goodman, is an engrossing coming-of-age story of a girl struggling for success on her own terms in an environment that has given her more than her share of obstacles to overcome.

Courtney, Sam’s mom, is a single mother working in a beauty shop to support her daughter Sam and younger son Noah, each of whom has a different father. Sam’s dad Mitchell is a traveling performer and alcoholic who comes and goes from his daughter’s life without the girl’s understanding why. Sometimes violent, Noah’s father Jack is the son of the couple who feel obligated to provide a house for his son Noah, Noah’s mom, and Noah’s step-sister. Jack has no difficulty reminding Courtney that it’s not her house and eventually causes her to flee with the children.

When the story opens, seven-year-old Sam climbs door frames to stay out of reach of Noah, and during one of his appearances in town, her dad introduces her to climbing walls. Considering him her fun parent and loving the freedom of climbing, Sam takes to the sport and eventually finds others with the same interest, but not before Mitchell has disappeared from her life yet again.

With mom Courtney’s financial struggles and her pressure on Sam for academic success despite the girl’s lack of interest, Sam gradually enters the world of competitive climbing, desperately trying to prove herself but falling behind her fellow climbers as she struggles with self-confidence issues and takes hazardous chances.
Throughout the novel, Goodman portrays Sam’s struggles to make her mark on life. As she grows from seven to nineteen, her thinking evolves as does her narrative voice, making this an interesting character-centered and attention-holding novel.

Thanks to Netgalley and Dial Press/Random House for an advance reader copy.

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Sam is a seven year old when we meet her. Her parents are divorced, her mother is stressed and her younger brother has anger issues and goes to a special school. She doesn’t often see her father who is a struggling addict, but he introduces her to the world of climbing which becomes a challenge and a joy. We are with Adam as she struggles to grow up. Overall I thought this was a good read.

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Sam by Allegra Goodman is a recommended coming-of-age story narrated by the protagonist from ages 7 to 19 years-old.

Sam is an active seven-year-old girl who lives with her mother, Courtney, and half-brother, Noah, in Beverley, Massachusetts. Courtney does her best but she has to work hard trying to make ends meet and doesn't have a lot of extra time or energy. Sam adores her father, Mitchell, but he can be an unreliable part of her life. What he does do right is introducing Sam to climbing, a sport she enjoys. Climbing is something she enjoys and continues doing as she grows up even as she struggles to fit in with others.

The novel is narrated by Sam in the third person present tense. At the beginning the sentences are very simple and child-like to resemble a seven year-old and then become increasingly more complex as Sam grows up. As a reader, this strategy wasn't entirely successful for me, especially at the opening of the novel. Later sections of the novel where she deals with what is a serious, actionable situation, her limited point-of-view is too narrow and restrictive.

Sam's love of climbing and her striving to excel at the sport does show her focus and determination to attain her goals despite her insecurities in other areas. All of the sections concerning climbing are descriptive and insightful. The narrative also competently describes her complicated life in a dysfunctional family. Her father struggles with addiction, something which she doesn't understand when young. Her mother has poor judgment in men; this doesn't just include Mitchell as Noah's father, Jack, is abusive. 3.5 rounded down.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House/Dial Press via NetGalley
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Edelweiss, and Amazon.

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Sam is 7 years old when we first meet her. She lives with her mother Courtney and her half brother. Her father is in and out of her life as he struggles with addiction. But he does introduce her climbing, and it's that that keeps her focused as we move through her life to age 19.

This wasn't a right away winner for me. I wasn't sure about the first part of the book, where Sam is 7, but as the story goes on, I started to feel more connected to Sam and the people around her. As other people come and go out of her life, her mother is her constant, and while Sam doesn't want to live her mother's life, she resents her mother's pressure to plan for a better future. Near the end, it's hard to remember Sam is still only 19, as she's lived through a lot. I think this story came to together well and I ended up liking it more than I'd thought I would at the beginning.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for an advance copy of this book.

Available January 3, 2023.

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About 50% through this book I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but the second half really won me over.

This book is a simple story. It is quiet, it reminded me of the lower budget Oscar indie films, that focus on characters and small stories. The writing wasn’t trying too hard, with quick, short sentences, and fast paced descriptions especially when Sam is climbing, and figuring out a path and a solution to a climb.

I think I liked the second half of the book the most as Sam was older because her story was so relatable. And despite this inner battle she has with herself, she ultimately chooses herself and her own passions in the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I’d recommend if you’re looking for something shorter, and character focused. I’ll probably buy myself a physical copy of this to keep once it releases.

This one comes out January 3, 2023! 📚

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3.5 stars. Coming of age novel following a girl named Sam, starting about age 7, until she is 19 or so. Sam's parents, Courtney and Mitchell, had same when they were just teens themselves. They are not together, and it soon becomes obvious that Mitchell is an addict. Sam and her family are lower socio-economic class, and Sam goes through many hardships as she grows up. It's a fairly straightforward character study, with undercurrents of class issues, what is means to grow up to be a woman, and how to find your own happiness.

"There is a girl, and her name is Sam. She adores her father, though he isn’t around much. Her mother, Courtney, struggles to make ends meet, and never fails to remind her daughter that her life should be different. Sam doesn’t fit in at school, where the other girls have the right shade of blue jeans and don’t question the rules. Sam doesn’t care about jeans or rules. She just loves to climb--trees, fences, walls, the side of a building. When she’s climbing, she discovers a place she belongs: she can turn off her brain, pain has a purpose, and it’s okay if you want to win.

As Sam grows into her teens, she grapples with self-doubt and insecurity. She yearns for her climbing coach to notice her, but his attention crosses boundaries she doesn't know how to resist. She wishes her father would leave for good, instead of always coming and going, but once he’s gone, she realizes how much she’s lost. She rages against her mother’s constant pressure to plan for a more secure future. Wrestling with who she wants to be in the face of what she’s expected to do, Sam comes to understand that she alone can make her dreams come true."

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

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Beautiful, simply written first person POV of a girl's coming of age. I loved the way that the story was written with short explanatory sentences at the beginning when Sam was 7 and didn't understand anything other than that her single mother was tired and her father was fun when he was around. The narrative starts when Sam is seven and goes until she is nineteen. Not much happens and yet a lot happens-it's just normal life stuff. Sam lives with her mother Courtney and her little half brother Noah. Sam's father is an entertainer who flits in and out of her life. It's fun when she is little but traumatizing when she is older. Her brother Noah's father is also present in fits and starts but his presence is an angry one for Sam. Her mother Courtney projects all of her love and dreams onto Sam and Noah while working multiple jobs to provide for them. I'm actually a little sorry that I'm done with the book as it would be nice to know what happened to Sam in adulthood.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in return for my honest review.

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*3.5 stars rounded up

This coming of age novel follows Sam through her growing-up years. She is part of a splintered family--a hard working mother, an unreliable father with addictions, a younger brother with mental issues, his sometimes violent father, who is thankfully mostly absent. All through her life, the one constant is the joy of climbing and the feeling of accomplishment it gives her.

The story of a misfit girl who manages to live her life according to her own light--no matter what her mother wants, her boyfriends want, her coaches want, society demands, etc. Sam is quite a special young woman, battered by life but remaining resilient and strong.

I received an arc of this novel from the author and publisher via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and opinions expressed are my own.

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This was my first Allegra Goodman read and I thought it was quite good. This coming of age story had a steady pace and kept me captivated. I empathized with many of the characters, which is what makes for good writing. There were some particularly funny moments in the story that had me laughing out loud, which I also appreciated—a little levity throughout the heavy themes addressed in this story was refreshing. All in all, I liked this and gave it 3-stars!

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Simple but sweeping, engaging and thought-provoking, Sam is the story of a girl as she grows up. The novel opens when she is seven, balancing her adoration of her unreliable father with her loyalty her hard-working mother. As Sam grows, she begins to see more dimensions to her parents and other characters; her life, never easy, becomes more confusing. She struggles to make the right choices, to balance her own desires with her parents' dreams for her, and she emerges as a young woman - battered and scarred but triumphant.

I expected this novel to feel heavier than it did. Although there are a number of difficult issues explored - alcoholism, financial hardship, occasional abuse - the story kept up its momentum, not lingering in traumatic moments. Instead, it focused on the threads that endure over the decade-plus of its span: Sam's relationships with her parents, her love of climbing, and, later, her forays into romance. Although the early chapters' attempts to mimic a young child's narrative voice felt cloying, the writing was in general quite enjoyable. I didn't find myself driven to keep turning pages - it isn't that kind of novel - but I was always happy to sit down and read a little more of Sam's story.

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Thank you to Random House for the review copy via NetGalley of Allegra Goodman's Sam. This is a moving ode to the complexities some young people face as they grow up, in some ways wise beyond their years and in others way beautifully young. This story weaves in coming of age themes with an examination of what is means to be alone (because of lack of meaningful parental presence, alone because of kind of being a social misfit) but seeking connection from others; what it means to have wants and desires but to be forced to think about what is safe and secure. The focus on Sam's love for climbing, for the earth, is a meaningful way to illustrate her desire to climb up and out, to feel grounded but also climbing above the the earth.

I was reminded of the work from Courtney Summers as I read this book, her work examines the complex peripheries that some individuals find themselves on and writing is similar in mood and style.

Fans of this writer and Courtney Summers and Chelsea Bieker will appreciate this literary work! Sam also works well for literary focused book clubs.

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I love Goodman's writing, but here it fell a little short. Rather than drawing me into Sam's story, I occasionally got lost in the prose - something you don't want to do with this book. Sam is one of those who almost fit in: jeans that are just a shade away from right, or interests that don't blend with the societal norm. How someone like that grows into herself and becomes comfortable with the transition between child and adult, figuring out who she wants to be and how she wants to be seen, not to mention how the simple relationship between child/parent becomes so much more complex as she grows up.

eARC provided by publisher via Netgalley.

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Allegra Goodman’s latest novel, Sam, starts simply. When we meet Sam she is 7 and the prose and pacing of the book reflect that. As she grows and matures, so does Allegra’s masterful prose and pacing. Sam is a rock climber, a smart but unmotivated student, the daughter of a divorced couple, both of whom have profound but very different influences on her life, and older sister to Noah, whose father is not Sam’s and who struggles to find himself and his own voice throughout the novel. Her mother works hard, eking out a living for the three of them. Her dreams were never fulfilled, and now she hopes to realize them through Sam, practically forcing her to pursue an associate’s degree in accounting - a secure career will surely ensue. But Sam’s dreams are of the earth - climbing its boulders and understanding its compositional origins. Sam the novel differs from most coming of age books by the quality of its writing and the fulsomeness of its development of her character. While many other reviewers were surprised or disappointed by its ending, I was neither. I will think about Sam - the character and the book - for days to come.

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