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 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.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell Details

TitleThe Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 24th, 2018
PublisherLake Union Publishing
ISBN-139781503949003
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsIt 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 starsIt 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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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    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. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell 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 A Prayer for Owen Meany 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 itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
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  • Em Lost In Books
    January 1, 1970
    "Life is either a collision of random events, like billiard balls during a break careening off and into one another, or if you are so inclined to believe, our predetermined fate—what my mother took such great comfort in calling God’s will." Sam was born with a rare genetic condition which made his pupils red. Because of this he was rejected admission in a Catholic School but the his brave mother did not let it happen and fight against this rejection. This was only a start to the difficulties th "Life is either a collision of random events, like billiard balls during a break careening off and into one another, or if you are so inclined to believe, our predetermined fate—what my mother took such great comfort in calling God’s will." Sam was born with a rare genetic condition which made his pupils red. Because of this he was rejected admission in a Catholic School but the his brave mother did not let it happen and fight against this rejection. This was only a start to the difficulties that Sam, a great student, was about to face in his life because of his eye condition. He was called "devil boy" in his school and was an easy target for bullying. But he soon learned to stand up to this hatred against him, and there were his parents and friends on every turn who never lost in faith in him; and were a constant source of strength. Story was told in past and present. Dugoni kept the chapters short and a very tight writing. Perhaps because he also write thrillers that he turned every chapter in a short suspense story keeping me on the edge. It was to put it down as I kept telling myself one more chapter and at the end of that chapter something would happen that I had to read the next chapter. I don't even remember how I stumbled upon this gem, all I know is that am glad I read this. It is hard not to love this book for the courage that Sam shows when he was targeted because he was different, for the love and faith of parents in their son and for how they supported him, for the friends who devoted themselves to him even when they were frowned upon for it. Dugoni explored themes of coming of age, honor, dignity, love, bullying, faith, in simple yet lively manner which made it a riveting read for me. Highly recommended.
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    4 richly drawn stars to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 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 4 richly drawn stars to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 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. This review also now appears on my shiny new book blog! www.jennifertarheelreader.com Thank you to Robert Dugoni, Lake Union, and Netgalley, for the ARC. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is now available!
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    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!!!! 👍💕📚💕👍📚
  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    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: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Susanne Strong
    January 1, 1970
    4.25 Amazing and Brilliant Stars.* (rounded down) I’ve had “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell” on my Audible Shelf for more than 6 months now, ever since I saw some pretty extraordinary reviews from some of my Goodreads friends. I’m not sure what took me so long to listen to it. Whatever the reason, let me just say that I am so glad I finally got around to it. From the first paragraph to the last, I experienced fits of laughter and tears. Sam, you have my heart.When Sam was born, the first word 4.25 Amazing and Brilliant Stars.* (rounded down) I’ve had “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell” on my Audible Shelf for more than 6 months now, ever since I saw some pretty extraordinary reviews from some of my Goodreads friends. I’m not sure what took me so long to listen to it. Whatever the reason, let me just say that I am so glad I finally got around to it. From the first paragraph to the last, I experienced fits of laughter and tears. Sam, you have my heart.When Sam was born, the first words his father exclaimed were, “What in Sam Hell?” and that for the most part, became his moniker. You see, Sam was born with a very rare condition. Ocular Albinism - which is a genetic condition that primarily affects the eyes - reducing the coloring of the Iris, which in turn gave Sam red eyes. As a child, he was called “Devil Boy.” Darn bullies! While his mother fought long and hard for Sam to be treated like everyone else, it just doesn’t work that way. There was one bully in particular who made Sam’s life absolutely horrendous: David Bateman. There was also one friend (he was only African American in Sam’s class), who made everything ok: Ernie Cantwell. Then, someone else came along: Mickey Kennedy. She was a tough cookie who never took crap from anyone. Together, the three of them triumphed over all.As an adult, Sam still had to battle his inner demons as well those bullies who never truly went away. With the help of family and friends, love and support, he learns that life is indeed extraordinary. For me, this was a book that touched my heart, and I felt it deep within. I loved it it desperately. Sam’s heart was on full display throughout. He is the kind of character who sticks with you long after you finish the final chapter. The author, Robert Dugoni’s inspiration for this story was extremely touching and I enjoyed reading about it. If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it for its heartfelt, touching nature and its unique storyline. Thank you to all of my Goodreads friends who read this and convinced me to get it. I’m so glad I finally gave it a listen! Thank you also to Audible. Published on Goodreads on 12.18.18.
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  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Debra
    January 1, 1970
    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 www.openbookpost.com
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  • Bianca
    January 1, 1970
    I may get crucified for this review, anyway, I’ll take my chances.I, like many others, enjoy an underdog story. This is the story of Sam Hill, who has ocular albinism, a genetic abnormality that makes his eyes look red. It’s the early 1960s, so people are less enlightened. Sam’s mom is an ardent Catholic and she’s fierce. She would not let anyone or anything stay in the way of her son getting an education and achieving his potential. Sam’s hardships start early on, practically on the first day a I may get crucified for this review, anyway, I’ll take my chances.I, like many others, enjoy an underdog story. This is the story of Sam Hill, who has ocular albinism, a genetic abnormality that makes his eyes look red. It’s the early 1960s, so people are less enlightened. Sam’s mom is an ardent Catholic and she’s fierce. She would not let anyone or anything stay in the way of her son getting an education and achieving his potential. Sam’s hardships start early on, practically on the first day at the local Catholic school, affiliated to the church they attend. His nickname became Sam Hell or Devil Son. The poor boy, not only is he shunned by his colleagues, he draws the Principal’s ire, the mean sister Beatrice.The novel moves back and forward in time. During the school and high school years, Sam makes two great friends, Ernie, the only black boy in the neighbourhood, and Mickie, a tomboy, outspoken girl. The three of them are very tight.This started off pretty well. Unfortunately, as I read on, I became irritated with this novel. It’s like a soap-opera, lacking in nuance. Sam is a saint, saving and helping everyone left, right and centre. Also, I would be remiss not to mention that I found all the religious connotations, overtones and undertones and not so subtle Catholic mantras suffocating. This novel is basically a Catholic allegory of good vs evil. I found it emotionally manipulative. While I’ve never read a Christian novel, had this not had a few mild sex scenes, it could probably be labelled as one.There were a few things that didn’t agree with me. (view spoiler)[The White saviour trope - of course, Sam, the brave white boy, has to save the black boy by not only befriending him but also by helping him with school work, as he was dyslexic. Not only that, while in high school, Sam became a school sports correspondent for the Times!, so because of his raving reviews of his friend's sporting prowess, Ernie ends up getting a basketball scholarship at Stanford University. Who knew high school students had that much power … (hide spoiler)] I’m going to be pedantic now: I’ve read on ocular albinism – Sam doesn’t seem to have as many issues that others seem to have, even allowing for individual differences. Also, I had big doubts that someone who had had a stroke that had developed into dementia would last as long as Sam’s father did. So, this was an accessible, competently written novel. I’m sure Robert Dugoni had the best intentions, obviously informed by his own convictions. I’m certain that my own secular views are not to blame for my disenchantment with this novel. This reader enjoys reading novels with characters that are more realistic and less melodrama, which this novel failed to deliver.I’ve received this novel via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Extraordinary StarsThis is the story of Sam Hill, who was born in 1957, with ocular albinism, which made him have red eyes.He was born to very loving parents, the mother being very religious and thinking Sam was extraordinary and would live an extraordinary life. Sam attends Catholic school and is bullied and called “the devil boy” by many children, but he also makes two friends who become lifelong friends, and I just love their story.There are many very sad moments in the book, things Sam e 4.5 Extraordinary StarsThis is the story of Sam Hill, who was born in 1957, with ocular albinism, which made him have red eyes.He was born to very loving parents, the mother being very religious and thinking Sam was extraordinary and would live an extraordinary life. Sam attends Catholic school and is bullied and called “the devil boy” by many children, but he also makes two friends who become lifelong friends, and I just love their story.There are many very sad moments in the book, things Sam endured because of his eyes, but there are many laugh out loud moments also! Seriously, really funny! So, I just loved this book, and highly recommend it!Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing!
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  • Norma * Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Extraordinary Stars! THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL by ROBERT DUGONI is a touching, uplifting, heartwarming and an absolutely wonderful novel that had me totally engrossed and interested throughout this entire book. I was totally captivated and immersed with the voice of Sam and his story as he looks back on his life, making this novel extremely hard for me to put down. Sam totally touched my heart! ROBERT DUGONI delivers an inspirational and beautifully written story here with wonderful 4.5 Extraordinary Stars! THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL by ROBERT DUGONI is a touching, uplifting, heartwarming and an absolutely wonderful novel that had me totally engrossed and interested throughout this entire book. I was totally captivated and immersed with the voice of Sam and his story as he looks back on his life, making this novel extremely hard for me to put down. Sam totally touched my heart! ROBERT DUGONI delivers an inspirational and beautifully written story here with wonderful characters and short chapters to make this a quick and easy read. The relationships, love and support that Sam had here with his family and friends is what makes this novel so special. Sam was truly extraordinary and through his journey we really seen the struggles he faced as he was figuring out his purpose of life. I thoroughly enjoyed following along with Sam, his family and friends and all the wisdom, love, and themes shared within the pages of this book made this a powerful and memorable read! To sum it all up it was an interesting, insightful, unforgettable, emotional, and an enjoyable read with a satisfying ending. Would highly recommend!Publishing Date: April 24, 2018Thank you so much to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and Robert Dugoni for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book. Review written and posted on our themed book blog:Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Readinghttps://twosisterslostinacoulee.comCoulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.Where I live I am surrounded by Coulees!
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    "Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth." (Mike Tyson)Action steps on the toes of re-action. You never fully realize what you're capable of until backed into that corner or running out of rungs on the ladder of life.Samuel Hill is the only son of an only son. While that may be rare in itself, Sam has been born with ocular albinism. While the lyrics of "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" seem strange, stranger still is the fact that Sam's eyes have a pink/red tone. Kids will find "Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth." (Mike Tyson)Action steps on the toes of re-action. You never fully realize what you're capable of until backed into that corner or running out of rungs on the ladder of life.Samuel Hill is the only son of an only son. While that may be rare in itself, Sam has been born with ocular albinism. While the lyrics of "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" seem strange, stranger still is the fact that Sam's eyes have a pink/red tone. Kids will find the tiniest thing in one's physicality to make fun of......but this was a field day for the little darlings at Our Lady of Mercy elementary school in Burlingame, California in the 1960's. "Show No Mercy" was their marching song.Robert Dugoni opens the ornate door on the hellish beginnings of Sam's early childhood. "Devil Boy" rolled off the lips of all the kids and Sam Hill took on the new moniker of Sam Hell. This dungeon life on the playground was monitored by fellow classmate, David Freemon, who held court in the bathrooms and under the bleechers to dole out physical punishment on a daily basis. Sam's excuses of falling off his bike were beginning to wear thin. Sam was no squealer.Ernie Cantwell comes into Sam's life at a time when Sam can barely pick himself up off the ground. Ernie, the only African American child at OLM, becomes Sam's best friend and his truly lifelong one at that. Their families become close and stay that way over the years.But it is Sam's mother, Madeline, who holds this storyline rigid and in control. "She wasn't interested in just rocking this boat. She intended to capsize it." And she certainly does behind the wheel of that sleek Falcon convertible. Dugoni fast-forwards in alternating chapters to the present time of 1989 in Burlingame as Sam reaches adulthood and becomes a ophthalmologist in his private practice. But it is in this profession that Sam will meet up with the ghosts of his past. You can't outrun the phantoms that lurk in the dark shadows.....phantoms that have the capability to suffocate the very spirit that dwells inside of you. And these phantoms now have the long bony reach that may grip others in a deadlock. Robert Dugoni has a special gift for lighting the candle of the human spirit. We've seen it in his other offerings as well. But this one has a unique touch of slowly unwinding the thread of childhood secured deftly by the spool of motherhood. You'll see it portrayed by the women in this story. And, to be sure, read Dugoni's Acknowledgements at the end. 'Tis a tinge of sweetness to be savored.I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Lake Union and to the very talented Robert Dugoni for the opportunity.
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  • Christine
    January 1, 1970
    I was looking for a good change-of-pace book from my usual thrillers and crime fiction. I wanted something easy to read, but with real depth and minimal gore. My partner suggested this one. Thanks, Jean!The Extraordinary life of Sam Hell covers Sam’s life from age 3 to age 40 something. Sam Hill was born with ocular albinism and red eyes. What an albatross for a young boy. Sam’s mother, a devout Catholic, loves her son dearly and explains to him that his extraordinary eyes mean that he will lead I was looking for a good change-of-pace book from my usual thrillers and crime fiction. I wanted something easy to read, but with real depth and minimal gore. My partner suggested this one. Thanks, Jean!The Extraordinary life of Sam Hell covers Sam’s life from age 3 to age 40 something. Sam Hill was born with ocular albinism and red eyes. What an albatross for a young boy. Sam’s mother, a devout Catholic, loves her son dearly and explains to him that his extraordinary eyes mean that he will lead an extraordinary life. It’s God’s will, his mother tells him over and over. And God has a plan for everyone. Sam has a tough time throughout much of his young life, but his prayers for help seem to go unnoticed, and he is not at all certain God cares whatsoever. Luckily for Sam, he has met two extraordinary friends, Ernie and Mickie, two “misfits” who are his steadfast allies. They along with Sam’s parents make a tremendous impact on Sam’s life.This story encompasses a number of themes. These include bullying, deep friendship, wonderful parenting, the Catholic religion and its effect on its followers and previous followers, the institution of marriage, coming of age, grief, redemption, and forgiveness. There are a million chapters, each vignette focused on events and interactions that are important in Sam’s life. By the end, the thread holding it all together is evident. This novel is heartwarming and very emotive. The writing is simple, but the story is profound. I have now read two books in a row that made me cry. I strongly recommend this book to all readers. Sam Hill (or Sam Hell or just plain Hell as he was also known) is a character that will stay with me for a long time. It took many years for Robert Dugoni to bring this novel to fruition. Many thanks to him for his determination to get it delivered to his readers.
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  • Zoeytron
    January 1, 1970
    The cycle of life, '...the inevitable markings that only time deliver' (speaking of aging), loss of faith, moments in life that are kept close to the heart.  The value of a true friend.  I was taken with the pure love of Sam's parents for each other and for their boy, Sam.  In their minds, those red eyes did not make Sam different, they made him extraordinary.  And so he was.  A bit saccharin for me before it was over, not my preferred flavor.  But it was well-written and a little different, and The cycle of life, '...the inevitable markings that only time deliver' (speaking of aging), loss of faith, moments in life that are kept close to the heart.  The value of a true friend.  I was taken with the pure love of Sam's parents for each other and for their boy, Sam.  In their minds, those red eyes did not make Sam different, they made him extraordinary.  And so he was.  A bit saccharin for me before it was over, not my preferred flavor.  But it was well-written and a little different, and I can't bring myself to give it less than 4 stars.  
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  • Brenda - Host of Traveling Sisters & Friends
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 StarsNorma and I started off in the extraordinary inspiring lush coulee reading The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell and it started off strong for us and we both were drawn into this story right away. In the end, we ended up in separate coulees with the way we felt about this story.There are many extraordinary things explored in this story like a Mother’s love and belief in just how extraordinary her son is and how our main character Sam HIll overcomes the many obstacles throughout his life fr 3.5 StarsNorma and I started off in the extraordinary inspiring lush coulee reading The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell and it started off strong for us and we both were drawn into this story right away. In the end, we ended up in separate coulees with the way we felt about this story.There are many extraordinary things explored in this story like a Mother’s love and belief in just how extraordinary her son is and how our main character Sam HIll overcomes the many obstacles throughout his life from a young age. I loved Sam’s compassion and understanding and it was inspiring to read. We see the best and the worst in people and at times this story was heartbreaking and heartwarming with all the themes explored in this story, Where Norma and I ended up in different coulees was with the way we felt about this one was with the ending. I found it too gushy, sentimental and too forced. I was left in the soggy muddy coulee feeling unsatisfied and Norma was in the lush coulee feeling very satisfied. Thank you so much to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and Robert Dugoni for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book. Published April 24, 2018Review written and posted on our themed book blog Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading.https://twosisterslostinacoulee.comCoulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
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  • marilyn
    January 1, 1970
    This book brought out so many feeling in me and I'll be thinking about it for a very long time. It's such a different book from Dugoni's other books, which I enjoy and I enjoyed this one too, despite how different it is from his usual books. After I finished the book, the author tells us what led him to write this book and I appreciated getting to read his reasons, also. Sam has so much, parents who love him unconditionally, two true, life long friends, the will and ability to excel in his studi This book brought out so many feeling in me and I'll be thinking about it for a very long time. It's such a different book from Dugoni's other books, which I enjoy and I enjoyed this one too, despite how different it is from his usual books. After I finished the book, the author tells us what led him to write this book and I appreciated getting to read his reasons, also. Sam has so much, parents who love him unconditionally, two true, life long friends, the will and ability to excel in his studies, but he was born with eyes that were different and that sets him apart from "normal" kids. He has to deal with bullies, prejudices, the fear of those who can't deal with those who are different, while having a mom who knows he will be extraordinary.Sam searches for why things are the way they are and his search leads him away from faith and towards faith. Family and friendship is so much a huge part of this book and while my heart hurt for Sam and others who are treated cruelly, I was also so aware of how much Sam had in his life. All that happens to Sam makes him the man he is at the end of the book. I very much recommend this book.Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for this ARC.
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  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    At his birth, Sam Hill's mother predicts that he will have an extraordinary life due to his extraordinary condition but it doesn't feel that way to Sam when he starts at the local Catholic School and is called "Devil Boy" and nicknamed Sam Hell. Sam has bright red eyes from ocular albinism that cause everyone to stare at him and makes him a target for the school bully. Sam has a protective and loving family who teach him to be resiliant and he eventually finds a friend in Ernie, the only African At his birth, Sam Hill's mother predicts that he will have an extraordinary life due to his extraordinary condition but it doesn't feel that way to Sam when he starts at the local Catholic School and is called "Devil Boy" and nicknamed Sam Hell. Sam has bright red eyes from ocular albinism that cause everyone to stare at him and makes him a target for the school bully. Sam has a protective and loving family who teach him to be resiliant and he eventually finds a friend in Ernie, the only African American boy in school, and later Mickie, a rebellious tomboy, who both help him survive school. Sam's path will later cross again with his old school bully in adult life with serious results that throw him out of his hard won comfort zone and cause him to re-evaluate his life.This a character driven novel, with Sam's mother Madeline the star, staunchly religious, fearless of authority and fiercely protective of her only child. Sam's friends Ernie and Mickie are both non-conformers who don't fit in and don't see the need to, teaching him not to worry about what others think but to do what is right for him. I found the fairly heavy Christian message of the ending a little overdone and unnecessary as I felt the message of good winning out over evil was already well enough implied. However others with a more religious leaning may enjoy the ending. Apart from that minor point, I did enjoy reading about the extraordinary life of Sam Hell.With thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for a digital ARC of the book to read.
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars for audio version of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, as narrated by the author himself.This book sucked me in and put me through the wringer. I was fully invested in the story and characters, and I got a little overly bitter a few times when I was forced to put the book down to go do non-reading things.The book alternates between brief snippets of Sam as an adult trying his best to navigate grown-up relationships, and longer sections telling the story of how Sam grew up. Born with 4.5 stars for audio version of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, as narrated by the author himself.This book sucked me in and put me through the wringer. I was fully invested in the story and characters, and I got a little overly bitter a few times when I was forced to put the book down to go do non-reading things.The book alternates between brief snippets of Sam as an adult trying his best to navigate grown-up relationships, and longer sections telling the story of how Sam grew up. Born with ocular albinism, he struggled in childhood as children and adults alike ostracized him for his unique eyes.For me this read like a mash up of the movie A Christmas Story and a Fredrik Backman book (with maybe just a tiny bit of Angela's Ashes mixed in). There was some silliness, but mostly this was a story told at a deliberate pace and in the end I realized how beautifully the threads of Sam's life had been woven together.I'm deducting a tiny bit for a few reasons: *There were some points in the book when I was suddenly very confused about timelines, and it's almost impossible to go back and figure things out with an audiobook. *Although religion played a role thoughout the story, near the end it became a much bigger part of the story and that left me a bit cold. *Finally, there was a (thankfully rather short) sex scene near the end that just made me really uncomfortable. I'm no prude, but this scene squicked me out. I suspect it had to do with listening to the story being told in the first person. I just really felt like some guy was detailing to me an encounter he'd had. It didn't fit the character to be relating such things to a stranger and it made me feel like I should leave the room or something.Overall, though, this book got to me, and it stuck with me for days after. I loved listening to Sam's story, and I was right there in his world.A special thanks to Christine for her review that convinced me to bump this gem way up my TBR list!P.S. Don't let that cover scare you off! I thought for a long time that there was some supernatural element or something based on the cover, so I put this off when I ought not to have done so. I really don't think the cover does this book justice at all!
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  • Brenda
    January 1, 1970
    This one turned me to mush and made my eyes leak. While the characters were very religious, the story is not preachy. I felt it was more a story of faith, acceptance, and love. Sam certainly did have an extraordinary life. Very heartwarming!
  • Mary Carrasco
    January 1, 1970
    Sam Hill was born with red eyes. His mother, a woman of deep faith, deemed him extraordinary and believed he would lead an extraordinary life. Sam, however, felt anything but. He struggled to find meaning among the mishaps and tragedies throughout his life.I was immediately drawn into this story and some of the amazing characters. Sam's mom was my favorite. There were some really funny and also heartbreaking moments as well. This is definitely one of the best novels that I've read so far this ye Sam Hill was born with red eyes. His mother, a woman of deep faith, deemed him extraordinary and believed he would lead an extraordinary life. Sam, however, felt anything but. He struggled to find meaning among the mishaps and tragedies throughout his life.I was immediately drawn into this story and some of the amazing characters. Sam's mom was my favorite. There were some really funny and also heartbreaking moments as well. This is definitely one of the best novels that I've read so far this year!
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  • Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
    January 1, 1970
    You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·DineI'm beginning to learn that audiobooks either work or do not for me. There is no middle ground. I'm happy to report that The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell definitely worked!There are many things I loved about this book but my overwhelming response upon finishing it was Wow, this book was so refreshing! I can't recall the last time I read a book centered around a likable protagonist with an amazing and supportive family. That's not to s You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·DineI'm beginning to learn that audiobooks either work or do not for me. There is no middle ground. I'm happy to report that The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell definitely worked!There are many things I loved about this book but my overwhelming response upon finishing it was Wow, this book was so refreshing! I can't recall the last time I read a book centered around a likable protagonist with an amazing and supportive family. That's not to say that there wasn't plenty of adversity. To be sure, there was. In fact, this book covered a great many weighty topics including bullying, racism, domestic abuse, and child abuse. These topics were addressed, however, with sensitivity and in such a way as to convey hope and a sense of justice in most cases.As for the characters, Robert Dugoni does an amazing job of presenting us with a carefully constructed cast spanning the spectrum between good/almost perfect and pretty darn evil. What really stuck with me is how he managed to give us an understanding of how even the most unlikable characters became the way they are without excusing their behavior. Sam's friends Mickey and Ernie were quite lovable and a beautiful reminder that our circle does not need to be large to be full. As for his parents, I can only say that everyone should have parents like Sam's.Another refreshing and interesting aspect of this book was the role of religion. Sam's mother is a devout, walk-the-walk Catholic who isn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with the intimidating Sister Beatrice at Our Lady of Mercy. I loved her for that. She was decidedly not, as his father would have called it, a "Christmas Catholic". She was the real deal. While the church was not made out to be perfect, neither were it's faults gratuitously sensationalized. I found Sam's struggle with his religious beliefs to be very realistic. And while religion plays a role in the book, it's never, ever preachy.Overall, I loved The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. The audiobook was performed by the author and he did a fabulous job bringing the characters and story to life. In fact, I'm rather glad I listened to this one. I think I may have had an even better experience than if I'd read it. I haven't read Robert Dugoni's Tracy Crosswhite series but I would definitely read his work in the future.
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  • Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    This started off with a bang and I was fully engaged with Sam and his wonderful parents. I had never heard of his eye condition before and I thought the author did a great job of making us care for him and his troubles. The prejudice that a boy with red eyes would face in a Catholic school is tremendous. The middle part was good too, but the book started to drain me of my interest when it got to be such a prolonged, dragged out and sentimental ending. I felt much more could have been accomplishe This started off with a bang and I was fully engaged with Sam and his wonderful parents. I had never heard of his eye condition before and I thought the author did a great job of making us care for him and his troubles. The prejudice that a boy with red eyes would face in a Catholic school is tremendous. The middle part was good too, but the book started to drain me of my interest when it got to be such a prolonged, dragged out and sentimental ending. I felt much more could have been accomplished with the story of his childhood bully coming back into his life, instead this is quickly glossed over. Then the story goes way over the top in believability, ending up in Lourdes with his dying parents. It felt a bit too much and I don't understand why Sam couldn't have had his epiphany at home.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    ‘We realize it is in those quiet moments that each of us has the ability to make our life extraordinary.’This is a story about love and how to live an authentic life. It is about how a life well lived, with love, is an extraordinary thing in and of itself. It is a story of a boy becoming a man, about self regard, about friendship. The closing chapters brought a tear of two to my eye. I found this an inspiring read, with many lessons that I could learn from myself. Recommended.Many thanks to Netg ‘We realize it is in those quiet moments that each of us has the ability to make our life extraordinary.’This is a story about love and how to live an authentic life. It is about how a life well lived, with love, is an extraordinary thing in and of itself. It is a story of a boy becoming a man, about self regard, about friendship. The closing chapters brought a tear of two to my eye. I found this an inspiring read, with many lessons that I could learn from myself. Recommended.Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book. All opinions are my own.
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  • Adrian Dooley
    January 1, 1970
    Loved this. Was a 5 star book for me all the way until near the end where it just fell apart a little and took things too far for me. Sam Hill is born with red eyes, which will always make him different. He has a condition called ocular albinism and his red eyes get him the nickname “devil boy” or Sam Hell”. Born in the 60s when different is always considered with suspicion, he finds himself an outsider in school growing up. He befriends another “outsider” Ernie, the only black kid in school and Loved this. Was a 5 star book for me all the way until near the end where it just fell apart a little and took things too far for me. Sam Hill is born with red eyes, which will always make him different. He has a condition called ocular albinism and his red eyes get him the nickname “devil boy” or Sam Hell”. Born in the 60s when different is always considered with suspicion, he finds himself an outsider in school growing up. He befriends another “outsider” Ernie, the only black kid in school and eventually a girl called Mickie, who is also a bit of an outsider, coming from a troubled home, a bit rough and ready and a girl who always speaks her mind. A girl more comfortable in the company of boys than girls. The book follows the three through their lives and their longstanding friendships together, jumping back and forward between present day and the past. Sams life is heavily imfluenced by his parents and especially his mother who is a devout catholic and prays and says the rosary every day. She tells Sam that it is gods will that he was born with red eyes and that god has a plan for him and he will have an extraordinary life. The book is heavily influenced by religion and the mothers strong beliefs and the trials and tribulations that Sam faces are in large metaphors of the catholic teaching and the battles of good versus evil. I’m in no way religious but that didn’t stop me enjoying this book immensely and the religious prominence in the book no way put me off and is more a underlying reference point for the story and not the central theme per say, although sadly that goes south towards the end. The book is fantastically readable. It’s certainly a departure from anything I’ve read by Dugoni before but it’s just as well written and well told. I absolutely loved it for the most part. Sams life and his escapades had me hooked from the start and it was one of those books that I found hard to put down. I was totally drawn into his world and the characters he encountered. So many well written and memorable ones. The past and present chapters are judged beautifully and the story elevoves fantastically. The more I read the more I thought it was one of my favourite reads in a very long time. A certain and easy 5 star review. Unfortunately the final few chapters let the book down for me as we go full on religious with some utterly bizarre goings on. The book goes from having a religious undertone that can be enjoyable for all with a beautifully told story. A story that can lean on religious beliefs and use them subtley to tell the story and the belief in good, to going totally off piste and blugening you over the head with religious rhetoric, near miracle happenings etc. It just felt so out of character for the book and the story, despite the religious tone throughout. It felt extremely clumsy and not quite like the same book at all and took the shine off what had been a fantastic read. Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Up to the 90% point it was honestly one of my favourite reads in a long long time. Unfortunately the last 10% was hugely disappointing as mentioned earlier. I really can’t get my head around where the author thought it in any way fitted with the rest of the book. Apart from the religious “happenings” it all just felt a little too neatly tied up in a bow for the readers. Despite all that I really loved this book overall. It was a compelling read, beautifully written for the most part and enthralled me. I hope my negative view of the final chapters doesn’t put anyone off reading it as, despite it being a a mark down and a very disappointing ending, it doesn’t take away from the fact that probably 90% of this book is near perfection for me. I’d thoroughly recommended it and advise you to get your hands on a copy as soon as you can. Many thanks to Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing and Robert Dugoni for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni and Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review. THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL by Robert Dugoni is the story of Sam Hill, who was born in 1957 with ocular albinism which gave him red eyes. His classmates called him, "the devil boy" and "Sam Hell." His mother, who was a devout Catholic, called him,"Extraordinary" and claimed that the colour of his eyes was "God's will." Sa Thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni and Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review. THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL by Robert Dugoni is the story of Sam Hill, who was born in 1957 with ocular albinism which gave him red eyes. His classmates called him, "the devil boy" and "Sam Hell." His mother, who was a devout Catholic, called him,"Extraordinary" and claimed that the colour of his eyes was "God's will." Sam thought that God 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 will that brought Mickie Kennedy to be his other best friend. I adored Sam's loving parents, and Ernie and Mickie - his two lifelong best friends. I loved Sam and felt his pain and confusion when he was hurt, and smiled and laughed with him during the good times.With great character development and an engaging realistic storyline, Robert Dugoni has skillfully written this extraordinary novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Samuel Hill from birth, through childhood and adolescence to present day adult. I raced through the short chapters wanting to know what was going to happen next. There was never a dull moment. In the Acknowledgments the author shares that his deeply religious mother was a strong advocate for his brother with Down Syndrome. Robert Dugoni also tells about reading a short article in the newspaper about a young boy in Australia being denied admittance to a Catholic school because he had been born with ocular albinism and the nuns thought he'd be disruptive to the other students. The other students nicknamed this poor child the devil boy. Mr. Dugoni wrote the first draft of this novel in five weeks!Sandi, thanks for bringing this book to my attention with your review earlier this year. I enjoy the Tracy Crosswhite detective mystery series by this author and look forward to reading each new one as it becomes available. But I would have missed the standalone novel THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HILL as it is a totally different genre. Kudos to the talented Robert Dugoni for writing this extraordinary powerful book! I highly recommend this novel. 5/5 extraordinary shining stars
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  • Jean
    January 1, 1970
    Namaste.My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides.I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you, because it is also within me.In sharing these things we are united; we are the same; we are one. – Legral onion Aug 2014 What the Sam Hell? This kid has red eyes! Sam Hill is the only son of an only son. He was born with a rare condition, ocular albinism, which gave him red pupils. His mother Madeline “Maddie” Hill, a devout Catholic, deemed Namaste.My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides.I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you, because it is also within me.In sharing these things we are united; we are the same; we are one. – Legral onion Aug 2014 What the Sam Hell? This kid has red eyes! Sam Hill is the only son of an only son. He was born with a rare condition, ocular albinism, which gave him red pupils. His mother Madeline “Maddie” Hill, a devout Catholic, deemed it, “God’s will.” She loves her son with unconditional love and is determined that others will too. His father Maxwell, a pharmacist, loves him steadfastly as well, but it is his mother who is his champion.The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni is the first book in a long time to make me cry. As the author describes in his Acknowledgements, the story of Sam Hill has very personal roots. For me as a reader, it opened up memories and triggered thoughts and feelings that had me reflecting on my own life. Unlike Sam, I am not an only child. I am a fraternal twin, and six siblings arrived in the following years. My brother and I were born six weeks prematurely, and on each subsequent birthday, my mother would describe her worry over our first days and weeks as she and Dad prayed for our survival. Like Sam’s mother, she was a woman of deep faith. Like Sam, we attended parochial school, where, unlike Sam, “the devil boy,” we fit in.There was so much about this story that felt familiar and touched my heart. When Sam starts school, he is ignored because he is different. He is mercilessly bullied by David Freemon. He has no friends until he meets a “misfit” named Ernie and another, a girl named Mickie. It is because of his own yearning to belong and be accepted that he is able to accept these others whom others perceive as different. I love Ernie and Mickie because they love Sam unconditionally too. They love him even when he doesn’t seem to love himself.He struggles with his faith. Who wouldn’t? Even one of the nuns is unkind to him just because of his appearance. She doesn’t acknowledge his intelligence, his humor, or his gentleness. She doesn’t go out of her way to promote Christian kindness and acceptance from his peers. He prays to be “normal,” but he feels that his prayers fall on deaf ears.Dugoni’s story shuttles between Sam’s childhood and his adult life. The book starts a bit slowly, and I found the childhood scenes to be quite painful. As an adult, Sam functions well. He is an ophthalmologist. He has a girlfriend. Grammar school pals Ernie and Mickie are still a big part of his life, as are his parents. God – God is not. Being told that everything happens for a reason and it is God’s will is hard to accept. Bullying. Suffering of any kind. Even being told that you are “extraordinary”. It places a burden on a kid. What if I’m not? What if I fail? I identified with that. How could God have great plans for me? Sam doesn’t just struggle with discrimination and with his faith. He struggles to believe in himself, to find himself worthy.Anyone who has felt discrimination of any kind - gender, racial, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, etc., will be touched by this story. Anyone who has struggled to believe in a higher power, especially via an organized religion but perhaps not exclusively so, can see parts of themselves in this book. Through Sam, his parents, Ernie, and Mickie, I found myself not looking forward, as Max put it, but looking back. Or, maybe looking inward. By the end of this book, I too, had red eyes. Namaste. Many, many thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and Robert Dugoni for the opportunity to read this ARC version of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.5 stars
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  • Karen Rush
    January 1, 1970
    And an extraordinary life it is. I loved this coming-of-age story of a boy named Sam born with red pupils. A simple and creative concept that generated a GREAT story. His character is well-developed and I so enjoyed watching him grow, along with admiring his fierce dedication to his parents and best friends. I loved Sam’s mother, a force to be reckoned with and someone to aspire to. Sam’s strict Catholic upbringing brought me back to my 60’s childhood. I chuckled with references of “God’s will” And an extraordinary life it is. I loved this coming-of-age story of a boy named Sam born with red pupils. A simple and creative concept that generated a GREAT story. His character is well-developed and I so enjoyed watching him grow, along with admiring his fierce dedication to his parents and best friends. I loved Sam’s mother, a force to be reckoned with and someone to aspire to. Sam’s strict Catholic upbringing brought me back to my 60’s childhood. I chuckled with references of “God’s will” to explain away what life throws your way. The chapters alternate between Sam as a youth and as a grown man. to. One of my favorites of the year and I look forward to reading additional Robert Dugoni books.
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