When I occasionally daydream about writing a book, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is the type of book I dream about writing. A book that creates incredibly memorable characters, that paints a picture of a life lived and a person I would like to get to know.
I probably will never get round to writing such a book but, thankfully, Robert Dugoni – better known to me for his Detective Tracy Crosswhite series – has so I don’t have to worry.
I apologies if I’m waxing a little lyrical here but I just really enjoyed this book. There wasn’t a thing about it I didn’t (meaning you can probably guess the rating if you don’t have time to read the rest of my review).
Sam is a great central character, a boy born with red eyes who his mother believes will be extraordinary, even though Sam doesn’t believe that. He spends his childhood bullied and unsure of himself, and then his adulthood hiding who he really is behind a pair of brown contact lenses. It takes some hard life lessons for him to finally see what his mother was talking about and just how good a man he can be.
I loved following Sam on his journey, which went between the present and the past as he used what had happened to him as a child to understand the type of man he had become and then figure out the type of man he maybe wanted to be. One of the reasons I think he did is that Dugoni seemed to get to the heart of Sam as a person. He felt real, and normal, and reading the book felt very natural. There were twists and turns that kept it interesting but nothing felt forced.
The characters surrounding Sam were well drawn and well written. I especially enjoyed Sam’s mother, who was a force of nature, and I understood her motherly drive to want the best for her son and to never give in pushing for it. I also enjoyed the way Sam returned the ‘favour’ of a good upbringing when his parents needed it. He’s a good person and that is one of the big things that has stayed with me after finishing this book. Not everyone I read about has to be big, bold, brash or unpredictable. Regular people – well, fairly regular people, are just as interesting and make for just as good subjects.
This was the type of read I needed at the moment, one that lifted my spirits and I can thoroughly recommend it.
About the book…
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.
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication date: 24th April, 2018
Number of pages: 434
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.