The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A Novel

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Known for his mystery thriller series about homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite, Robert Dugoni’s recent stand-alone novel is sentimental in the best of ways. As a child, Sam Hell was bullied and discriminated against for his unusual red eyes, bold evidence of his ocular albinism. At his mother’s insistence, Sam is reluctantly accepted into a private Catholic school where he is known as “Devil Boy.” The worst of his tormentors is David Freemon. Life for Sam is bleak until he befriends the only African American boy in the school, Ernie Cantwell, and later a fiercely individualistic girl named Mickie Kennedy. With his devoted parents and supportive friends, Sam manages to navigate his turbulent teenage years and eventually becomes a respected ophthalmologist. However, Sam’s red eyes, which he now hides with colored contacts, his relationship decisions, and painful past with Freemon is all about to catch up with him.

Most of the novel follows one timeline, written in Sam’s voice, looking back on his life as a boy. Another timeline, which tells of Sam’s current struggles, weaves nicely in and out of the main narrative. 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.

Reviewed By:

Author Robert Dugoni
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 448 pages
Publisher Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date 2018-Apr-24
ISBN 9781503949003 Buy this Book
Issue September 2018
Category Modern Literature

3 reviews for The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A Novel

  1. Lynn dunlap

    This book included so many types of love! The love of a mother and father. The love between friends. The love of God. The love for fellow man. Romantic love…
    Love helps this child survive and become a kind and loving man in spite of a very difficult childhood. I did not want to put it down. A well told story with lots of life lessons.

  2. Sandy

    I get why this book gets great reviews. The writing is very good. The dialogue genuine and authentic. But, Lordy! I quit reading after about a third of this dirge of a novel. It’s just so depressing. It’s unhappiness never lets up. I hope Sam ends up having some good in his life although from reviews it never does get significantly better for him. I feel bad disliking a person’s report of a truly difficult journey because of a physical situation he has no control over but man….be prepared to be super sad for days.

  3. David M


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