The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

From #1 Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni.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...

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Title:The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell
Author:Robert Dugoni
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Edition Language:English

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell Reviews

  • Matt

    First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

    In his latest standalone novel, Robert Dugoni shows just how versatile he can be with his writing. His dazzling prose and wonderful ability to convey a story will warm the heart of many readers throughout this powerful novel. Sam Hill was born just outside the Bay Area to two loving parents. As he tells i

    First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

    In his latest standalone novel, Robert Dugoni shows just how versatile he can be with his writing. His dazzling prose and wonderful ability to convey a story will warm the heart of many readers throughout this powerful novel. Sam Hill was born just outside the Bay Area to two loving parents. As he tells in the early part of the story, the love his parents showed him was unlike anything else in the world. However, Sam was born with a unique feature—red irises, called ocular albinism—which would come to haunt him in the years to come. Though it did not affect his ability to see, Sam was scorned by other young children and faced a significant issue trying to get into the local Catholic school. However, his persistent mother never lost the faith and Sam was soon enrolled alongside the other pupils. His eyes did cause many an issue, helping him develop the moniker, Sam Hell. This did not deter him, though kept the other children from playing alongside him. Friends with Ernie Cantwell, a young black boy—the only in the school—Sam discovered that some children take things to extremes and was severely bullied. As hew grew, Sam and Ernie remained the best of friends, soon adding Michaela ‘Mickie’ Kennedy to their brood. As the story progresses, the reader learns of Sam’s older years and how things developed for him, allowing life lessons and personal epiphanies to shape his way of life. With each part of the book flashing forward to 1989, the reader is able to discover a ‘modern’ narrative and how Sam has used all those lessons to shape what came to be his greatest moments, influenced deeply by his mother. Those fans of Dugoni’s work will marvel at this personal story that has all the ingredients his police procedurals as well. Those seeking a touching story that does not get too sappy will also love this and may develop a love of Robert Dugoni’s writing in general.

    I have long loved the writing that Dugoni puts out and find myself completely captivated by his current series set in Seattle. However, it is wonderful to see an author step away from his/her comfort zone and develop an ability to write with an entirely new set of characters and plots. Dugoni does this so effortlessly and pulls the reader in the middle of an emotional story that holds the reader’s attention until the very last phrase. Sam Hill is a wonderful character whose maturation is a fundamental part of the story. His backstory and ongoing character development provides the reader with a rich understanding of the issues that he faces as a child with a physical trait that distinguishes him from others. Secondary characters, such as Ernie and Mickie provide a wonderful flavour for the story and are offset by the more grounded Mr. and Mrs. Hill, who have their own quirks. The vignettes that occur within each part of the larger story provide a wonderful collage of moments that, when sewn together, provided a powerful set of characters that convey a powerful message. I almost could not tell that this was Dugoni, so used to his mystery and police stories, though I am blessed to have seen how detailed he made the entire experience. Dugoni offers up some wonderful themes throughout the piece and arcs them together effectively, touching the reader at just the right moments. The short chapters help push things along and the spiritual nature of the narrative does not create a Christian inculcation, but surely serves as an effective theme in Sam’s life and the reader’s experience with this novel.

    Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for such a powerful book. I can only hope to read more standalone novels of this calibre in the years to come.

    Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

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  • Liz

    I’m used to Robert Dugoni for the Tracy Crosswhite series. This book isn’t even a mystery. Instead, it’s the story of a young man growing up with a genetic abnormality, ocular albinism. It’s a heartwarming tale as Sam struggles to avoid school bullies, including the nun who is the principal at the catholic elementary school. But it’s also the story of best friends and the lengths they go to help each other out. There are some laugh out scenes that had me guffawing in the middle of an airplane.

    T

    I’m used to Robert Dugoni for the Tracy Crosswhite series. This book isn’t even a mystery. Instead, it’s the story of a young man growing up with a genetic abnormality, ocular albinism. It’s a heartwarming tale as Sam struggles to avoid school bullies, including the nun who is the principal at the catholic elementary school. But it’s also the story of best friends and the lengths they go to help each other out. There are some laugh out scenes that had me guffawing in the middle of an airplane.

    The story also gives us Sam as an adult forced to confront the same bully and the choices he makes color the next ten years of his life.

    Dugoni tells the story with a brisk writing style using short chapters. It’s a fast, wonderful read that connects with all the emotions. It makes some very poignant points about faith, love and forgiveness. Make sure to read the Acknowledgements at the end of the book. For those who think of Dugoni only as a mystery writer, I urge you to give this one a chance. It really spoke to me.

    My thanks to netgalley and Lake Union for an advance copy of this novel.

  • Elyse Walters

    FANTASTIC audiobook!!!!

    .....I love Sam!!!!

    .....l loved the way Sam’s mother defended him: awesome dialogue!!

    .....loved the storytelling....

    .....Endearing - engrossing - and inspiring!!!!

    Thumbs Up - up- up!!!! 👍💕📚💕👍📚

  • Marialyce

    5 most touching extraordinary stars!

    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 books that when you finish them, you know in your heart that they will never leave you. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell was just such a book.

    We meet a wonderful cast of characters, characters we would like to know, characters we would love to have as parents, friends, and neighbors, character

    5 most touching extraordinary stars!

    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 books that when you finish them, you know in your heart that they will never leave you. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell was just such a book.

    We meet a wonderful cast of characters, characters we would like to know, characters we would love to have as parents, friends, and neighbors, characters that we could love. From Sam, the boy born with red eyes suffering from a rare disease, ocular albinism, nicknamed the devil boy, to his amazing and loving parents we learn as Sam grows the emotional love and concern they share for each other. Sam's friends Ernie and Miki, themselves outcasts, join forces to provide Sam with support and love that he is desperately seeking. Sam is shunned in his Catholic school environment but it is through his mother's strong faith in both Sam and her Catholic faith coupled with his father's wonderful wisdom that Sam grows into adulthood. His road is never easy as he comes against prejudice and hate. He is tormented by his nonacceptance into a world where he is taught that things are God's will. He is belittled, held back, and faced with obstacles that try to defeat the spirit that his parents try so hard to engender in him for they believe that their son is extraordinary and he deserves his extraordinary life. His two lifelong friends bring to Sam love, compassion, and a strong bond that provides him a place to go when his life becomes onerous.

    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.

    Thank you to Robert Dugoni for writing such a extraordinary book and to Lake Union and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel.

  • Larry H

    4.5 stars rounded up.

    Sam Hill's birth in 1957 caused quite a stir, as he was born with ocular albinism, which left him with red pupils. While his religiously devout mother viewed his eyes as evidence of the extraordinary potential his life holds. That's not the unanimous view of everyone in their community, however—his Catholic school classmates refer to him as "Devil Boy."

    Sam's mother was determined that her son live life with great gusto, and not be discouraged by those who treat him badly or

    4.5 stars rounded up.

    Sam Hill's birth in 1957 caused quite a stir, as he was born with ocular albinism, which left him with red pupils. While his religiously devout mother viewed his eyes as evidence of the extraordinary potential his life holds. That's not the unanimous view of everyone in their community, however—his Catholic school classmates refer to him as "Devil Boy."

    Sam's mother was determined that her son live life with great gusto, and not be discouraged by those who treat him badly or try to keep him from the opportunities given to every other child. Sam becomes the target of a trio of school bullies who wish to do him harm because of his eyes. But while his mother believes that events in Sam's life are determined by God's will, Sam isn't quite so sure that God would want him to suffer in fear and loneliness.

    It's the arrival of Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in school, who first makes Sam believe people could be heaven-sent. Ernie becomes Sam's closest friend and confidante, and the two help each other battle those driven by fear and prejudice. And when brash Mickie Kennedy arrives at school, she is tougher and stronger than many of the boys, and proves that you really can go through life not caring what people think.

    follows Sam as he travels from childhood to adulthood, experiences the flush of first love and lust, is buoyed by the intense loyalty and love of his closest friends, and, for the first time, realizes that God's will isn't always positive. When a tragedy hits close to home, he has to change the course of his life and become the man his mother always knew he would be, and he learns to keep people at a distance so he doesn't get hurt—although that doesn't always guarantee emotional safety.

    This book chronicles 40 years of Sam's life, relationships, work, love, family, and the bonds of friendship. It's the story of faith, disbelief, loyalty, and the struggle between right and wrong. But more than that, it's the story of one extraordinary boy who grows into an extraordinary man.

    I thought this was a really great book. Sam is a fascinating yet flawed character who is able to find strength and courage in the face of tremendous adversity, thanks to an incredible support system of his parents and his friends. I grew very attached to these characters and found myself worrying about and cheering them, and wishing they'd say the things they needed to, to those they needed to.

    I have seen many people wax poetic about Robert Dugoni's Tracy Crosswhite series, although I've not read any of them. I was really impressed with his storytelling in this book—in some ways it felt a little like John Irving's

    or something similar. It's a book that touched me emotionally and made me think at the same time.

    My one criticism of the book is that it was a bit melodramatic at times, and I felt that a subplot involving the return of a figure from Sam's childhood really wasn't necessary. But beyond that, this is a book which grabbed me from the very first page, and I read it in just a few hours while on a long flight. And I may have brushed away more than a tear or two...

    See all of my reviews at

    , or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

    .

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

    What an engaging and poignant story! Sam Hell was born with ocular albinism, a condition that causes the blood vessels to show through the irises of the eye, giving a pink or red appearance. Sam’s family is deeply spiritual, and his mother believes his condition is simply God’s will.

    Sam endures bullying and outright discrimination due to his physical appearance. His childhood is tough, and he questions his faith. Sam’s mother i

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

    What an engaging and poignant story! Sam Hell was born with ocular albinism, a condition that causes the blood vessels to show through the irises of the eye, giving a pink or red appearance. Sam’s family is deeply spiritual, and his mother believes his condition is simply God’s will.

    Sam endures bullying and outright discrimination due to his physical appearance. His childhood is tough, and he questions his faith. Sam’s mother is his best advocate and champion. The love between all members of this family was palpable and inextinguishable.

    The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is about his journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, but if you’ve ever felt different, left out, or lonely, Sam’s story could be your story, too.

    Thank you to Robert Dugoni, Lake Union, and Netgalley, for the ARC. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is now available!

  • Debra

    3.5 stars

    "We realize it is in those quiet moments that each of us has the ability to make our life extraordinary."

    Sam was born with ocular albinism which resulted in him having red pupils. While many of his peers were freaked out by this and called him "devil boy", his Mother declared it's "God's will" and fought for Sam to be able to attend Catholic school. Sam suffered from the ignorance of others (including a nun at the school) and constant bullying. He then found friendship with Ernie, the o

    3.5 stars

    "We realize it is in those quiet moments that each of us has the ability to make our life extraordinary."

    Sam was born with ocular albinism which resulted in him having red pupils. While many of his peers were freaked out by this and called him "devil boy", his Mother declared it's "God's will" and fought for Sam to be able to attend Catholic school. Sam suffered from the ignorance of others (including a nun at the school) and constant bullying. He then found friendship with Ernie, the only African-American in his class and Mickie, a girl who proved to be tougher than any of the boys in their class. The three of then teach each other acceptance, friendship, loyalty, and what it means to be supportive of someone.

    This book is told through alternating timelines. We see Sam as an adult and as a child. We learn about his life, his loves, his loses, his family, his friends, his dreams, his faith and his chosen career path. My favorite character in this book is his Mother with her unwavering devotion and belief that Sam is destined to lead and extraordinary life. I love how she has quiet strength and is not afraid to advocate for her son.

    Another solid book by Dugoni! This is a well written account of one man's life. I thought the ending was a little much. I think Dugoni is accustomed to writing his Tracy Crosswhite series and leaving readers waiting for the next book, so in this book, perhaps he tried a little too hard to tie everything up.

    *Do read the acknowledgements section!!! That is a nice plus, we learn about Dugoni's family and the story/inspiration behind this book.

    I loved how this book focused on faith, family, friendship, and acceptance.

    Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    See more of my reviews at

  • Diane S ☔

    4+. Okay, I admit it, I am now officially a marshmallow. This book about a young boy, born with red eyes, due to ocular albanism really got to me. First, I could relate greatly to his experiences in Catholic school, been there done that. Some good sisters, some who should never have been let near small children. Sam, is called names, bullied but he does have wonderful, loving parents, and then a black boy enters the school. The two outcasts become fast friends. Then a little later a girl, who is

    4+. Okay, I admit it, I am now officially a marshmallow. This book about a young boy, born with red eyes, due to ocular albanism really got to me. First, I could relate greatly to his experiences in Catholic school, been there done that. Some good sisters, some who should never have been let near small children. Sam, is called names, bullied but he does have wonderful, loving parents, and then a black boy enters the school. The two outcasts become fast friends. Then a little later a girl, who is seemingly not afraid of anything, a maverick, outspoken, who becomes the third in their group.

    This was such a special read for me, and from an author who usually writes a very good mystery series. We follow these young people as they grow, see the kind of people they turn out to be. How their lives turn out and how the wethered the circumstances of their early lives. Such a touching book, one where you embrace the characters, want only good things for them. There is also humor, sadness, grief and an unbelievable friendship.

    The end was a bit overdone, well maybe more than a bit, actually somewhat mushy. I was already sold on the book though, the journey these characters travel to find a fulfilling life. So, the ending didn't derail my opinion of the book, and I was actually a little teary eyed. Like I said, I'm now officially a marshmallow.

    ARC from Netgalley.

  • Angela M

    4.5 stars

    It was impossible not to care about Sam Hill, his loving parents and his best friends Ernie and Mickie. Impossible not to admire Sam’s strength of character to endure the bullying and ridicule he experienced because of how he looked with his “devil eyes “, red eyes as the result of being born with ocular albinism. Impossible not to love the man he turns out to be. Impossible not to detest the psychotic bully, David Freemon or the mean Sister Beatrice who was unlike any nun I encountered

    4.5 stars

    It was impossible not to care about Sam Hill, his loving parents and his best friends Ernie and Mickie. Impossible not to admire Sam’s strength of character to endure the bullying and ridicule he experienced because of how he looked with his “devil eyes “, red eyes as the result of being born with ocular albinism. Impossible not to love the man he turns out to be. Impossible not to detest the psychotic bully, David Freemon or the mean Sister Beatrice who was unlike any nun I encountered in the 8 years of my grammar school education. Having grown up in a Catholic family and having attended a Catholic grammar school, I am very familiar with the phrase “God’s will” which in my experience was almost always used to justify less than desirable circumstances out of one’s control, as it was with Sam’s mother who uses the phrase frequently. I love the champion that his mother was for him . She’s my favorite character who instills in Sam that his eyes are not rare, but “extraordinary”.

    There are other extraordinary characters who embody what unconditional love is, what friendship truly means. It is a story of fate, of faith, of family and of friendship and how all of these things make us who we are, not how we look. These characters are introduced as Sam’s story is told in alternating time frames between the present and the years he was growing up . I was connected the whole way. If I have one criticism, it’s just that the ending was way too much, as if the author felt he had to tie up every loose end. Having said that, this well written story is moving. I felt that it was even more meaningful when I read in the acknowledgements about how his parents were when his brother was born with Down syndrome. I was moved that the seed for this story was an article he read about a young boy in Australia who “had been denied admittance to Catholic school because he had been born with ocular albinism and the nuns thought he’d be disruptive to the other students. It turned out that the other students had nicknamed this poor child the devil boy.” I’m glad he read that article and that he gave us Sam Hell because of it.

    Thanks to Diane for letting me know while she was reading this that I should probably read it . Without her nudge I may have missed it .

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Lake Union Press through NetGalley.

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