• The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

  • A Novel
  • By: Robert Dugoni
  • Narrated by: Robert Dugoni
  • Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (16,716 ratings)

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The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell  By  cover art

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

By: Robert Dugoni
Narrated by: Robert Dugoni
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Publisher's Summary

Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s coming-of-age story is, according to Booklist, “a novel that, if it doesn’t cross entirely over into John Irving territory, certainly nestles in close to the border.”

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” 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.

©2018 by LaMesa Fiction LLC. (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Author Robert Dugoni narrates Sam's life journey in an earnest and steadfast voice. Hearing the story through the author's own voice lends it an intimacy that enhances it wonderfully. Sam's life is filled with love, loss, tragedy, comedy, and everything in between. Sounding mature and dark at times, Dugoni artfully breathes life into every scene of a story about living life on the right terms regardless of its ups and downs." (AudioFile)

What listeners say about The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

Average Customer Ratings
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Warning about the ending

I’m a 58 year old man who mostly listens to English murder mysteries, spy novels and historical nonfiction. I chose this book on a whim from an Editor’s selection email. I should warn people like myself that you should not listen to the last 45 minutes in a public place like a grocery store or you risk have people approach you about why you are crying. I felt silly. This is a wonderful story.

357 people found this helpful

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Wow..allow yourself to be submerged in this book

If I had read/listened to this book and didn’t know the author, there’s no way you would have convinced me Robert Dugoni wrote it. “The Extraordinary Life of Same Hell: A Novel” is by far the best novel, I’ve been able to relate to, in a long time.

From the minute I started reading/listening I was completely taken in. I was the child, who grew up to be a man, who seemed to take care of everyone, except himself. His life wasn’t just “extraordinary” it was emotional, tender, heartbreaking, and full of love for this boy, because he was different, because he was bullied, because he was taken advantage of and because he couldn’t understand why God allowed all these things to happen?! Until the end....and the end was a magical understanding he received in his life, from God, from his mother and her faith.

This is so hard to review because I just don’t want to give ANYTHING away. But to be Sam, is to be that child or that teenager, or even that adult, where so many things happen in your life and you just look to God and say “Please tell me why?”

Yes it’s spiritual, but in a broad way, so it’s not preaching to you. I wouldn’t have cared if it was but some do and I just wanted to say that. I will say Sam was brought up in the Catholic Church so God was always around him. But in the end he only heard one voice, his mothers, and she always said, “ Sam, My beautiful baby, everything happens for a reason.”

I literally listened and read this in one sitting. My husband was having surgery on May 15, 2018 and it was a long difficult surgery. I needed inspiration and God gave me this book, I’m so thankful for it too! The author did narrate this, so I just assumed it was his story, from his life..but...I can’t tell you, because even that will be giving it away...I will tell you though, my head was on my pillow at 4 am and tears were rolling down my face and I found myself saying, “Thank you for this book...I don’t think I could have gotten through today without it..”...I’m emotional just remembering that thought.

Please read/ listen/buy the book/get the Kindle edition, do whatever you have to in order to get it! I promise if you don’t feel the warmth and message I did, tell Amazon in your review that I lied..but I’m not...Recommend to EVERYONE 5 plus ⭐️

Outstanding Mr. Dugoni 💜❤️

332 people found this helpful

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Story tainted by heavy hand of religion

If you like Catholic/Christian religion based stories you will love this book.

It is a feel good story with all the formula struggle, Catholic self-denial and guilt. Then the final triumph proving the wisdom of god's plan and validation of belief.

I felt the books heavy handed religious theme ruined the story.

133 people found this helpful

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A very, very special novel!

I am a major fan of the works of fiction author Robert Dugoni; I have copies of all of his books. All except SAM HELL are of the mystery/thriller genre with some being legal thrillers and some being modern detective thrillers. With THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL Dugoni strays from mystery/thrillers into literary fiction with a novel so powerful that it will win awards and it needs to be a movie. Robert Dugoni narrates this audio novel himself; his narration is marvelous.

Sam Hill was called "Sam Hell" or "Devil Boy" because he was born with ocular albinism which resulted in his eyes (the iris part) being red. The novel covers 40 years from the time he entered school at age 5. Other than the protagonist this novel has some wonderful main characters including Sam's parents, his best friend Ernie Cantwell, and his sort of girl friend and later business partner Mickie Kennedy. Sam Hill's profession is ophthalmologist.

I listened to SAM HELL twice over several weeks before writing this review. I recommend it to everyone regardless of genre preferences. It is a very, very special novel!

109 people found this helpful

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Good story, awful reading

I think I would have liked this book more had I read it. I was excited that the author was also the reader, as I reasoned his personal connection had a lot of potential to make the story more robust. Unfortunately something about the voices used for the characters (hearing a man read for empowered female characters made the characters seem like cliched tropes. Don't get me started on the black character) and the consistent stumbles over words started to get very distracting. I also found the accents to be somewhat insulting - everything sounded like a bad caricature of an Irish accent and when the reader read in Spanish I physically cringed. I understand the personal connection to the story, but maybe it's a disservice to the overall work to not call in the experts.

76 people found this helpful

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It's pretty good

I downloaded this audiobook because it had amazing reviews. It is enjoyable and the characters come alive to a large degree. The author does a fine job narrating. I just found it to be a little too pat, a little too sentimental. The story wraps up a little too nicely. Maybe the lead character was a little too nice. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I just didn't love it.

75 people found this helpful

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4.22 stars

At times, this audiobook reminded me of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. However, where Owen Meany is vast and expansive, Sam Hell is somewhat predictable. That being said, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is still pretty good. The novel deals in familiar themes: prejudice, racism, love, and religion. Every twist or turn in the book can be seen from a mile away, but the story is still engaging. Dugoni does a great job of reading his own work. He's a talented narrator. Although this novel is not of the caliber of Irving's A Prayer of Owen Meany, it did remind me of it, and that in itself is a compliment. This isn't the greatest book ever written, but it is good, and it kept my attention for the entire 11+ hours. It goes on a little longer than necessary and loses a little steam, but overall I enjoyed it.

Overall rating: 4.22 stars

61 people found this helpful

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An unexpected surprise. Loved it!

I've read/listened to many of Dugoni's books, enjoying every one of them. I look forward to anything new he might gift us with. This story was really unexpected in comparison to his previous novels. What a wonderful surprise! Dugoni's still a fantastic story teller, but in a whole new way.

Dugoni himself performing the audio was wonderful. I wasn't sure at first, but then appreciated knowing the story was being told as he intended, not as interpreted by an actor. He reminds me a tiny bit of Earl Hamner narrating The Waltons (a good thing in my opinion).

Thank you, Mr Dugoni! Looking forward to more by you!!

44 people found this helpful

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Narration will kill you

To bad the author (a.k.a. “Droopy Dog”)couldn’t hand the book over to ANYONE that could read it for him. The story was pretty decent but the sad sack tone of his performance was enormously irritating!

29 people found this helpful

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Sensational

I enjoyed the narrator/authors voice and the connection to the characters. From beginning to the end I couldn’t wait to hear the rest. The characters are well formed and believable. Worth every minute of my time.

28 people found this helpful

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  • mollyeyre
  • 08-16-18

Wow!

I really wasn't sure what to expect form this book, and I am so glad that I bought it.
The writing is so good that I felt it was a real life story, I loved the main characters, Mother was such a strong woman and made her son realise that he, alone, had to fight his own battles, though she was always there for support. I just loved all of the characters, and teared up frequently during my reading of this. I think that this is one of my favourite books of the year!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Baxterrr
  • 02-18-22

Great narrative

This was a thoroughly enjoyable listen for long car trips. Would recommend. Some parts NSFW.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-28-22

fantastic

absolutely brilliant, I really enjoyed this and could not put it down!! so many great characters, I felt as if I really knew them. sad to finish :(

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  • Randolph Scott
  • 09-02-22

Ok. But too pales into comparison to John Irving

This is far from a bad novel but the writing style is quite similar to John Irving. Unfortunately it really suffers by comparison. While the writing is good the plot is clumsy. There's a lot of things that happen that don't signify or lead to anything. And some of the more key events are rushed. it's also oddly saccharine in places and while it does conclude there's not much satisfaction for the reader to be found there. For all its earnestness the emotional beats ring hollow. Sam's relationship with religion and some of his grudges seem under-developed for those beats to ring true.

What I would say in its favour is that if you like it you'll love John Irving. Try The World According To Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meaney or The Cider House Rules for the best versions of this form.

The narrator is fine - apart from when he does an accent. Fortunately this is quite rare.

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  • Jenny Marshall
  • 07-24-22

Brilliant

Great narration- the author does this. Liked that he explained his inspiration for writing this at the end.
Downloaded before a series of long car journeys. Such a great story, completely absorbed from start to finish. Definitely listen, you won’t be disappointed.

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  • Renee du Preez
  • 06-19-22

Special story

What a delightful book. An easy read with a special story. The comments by author afterwards let it all make sense.

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  • Mrs Mary Barton
  • 04-07-22

Wow

One of the best novels I have ever read. Remarkable and touching story. I will not forget this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nicola Williams
  • 03-19-22

A wonderful story of adversity

This was a fantastic story of little boy called Sam who had a rare eye condition and how society viewed him and mistreated him. With his mother’s incredible devotion and his father’s strength he grew up with so much love and security. Sam’s life was a bumpy one, but he had the best of friends that life could have given him to help him throughout it.
Sam’s mother was convinced her son was very special and was going to be someone incredible and indeed she was right.
This family unit was a solid bond of love and devotion right to the end and beyond.

I was incredibly sad when this story ended, as I wanted to hear further on in Sam’s life. I really wished this story took the reader to the end of Sam’s life. The author decided to end the story on a high note which was lovely.

I decided to listen to the audio version. I was a bit nervous when I found out the author was narrating this book, but he did an excellent job and the book was read with passion.

I really hope you will enjoy this heart warming book of love, hope and adversity to the difficulties faced in life.

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  • Mary K
  • 03-13-22

Lots of ups and downs to keep you glued

The author read with great feeling and understanding of the main character and his emotional turmoil.

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  • Chantal Patel
  • 02-23-22

uplifting and inspiring story

its unusual for me to listen to novels as I prefer to read rather than listen but this story as narrated by the author was gripping at the outset. it accompanied me on my walks and when I rose from a deep slumber. throughout we see glimpses of ourselves . highly recommend 👌

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  • Kylie
  • 11-24-20

5 stars

I brought this book at least a year ago and now Im so annoyed at myself that I didn't listen to it straight away! I feel like this is one of those books that will stay with you for life. It was so beautiful and moving, painful and heartbreaking but oooh sooo good!!!
It seems Robert Dugoni can write successfully any genre and that is why he is one of my favourite authors

2 people found this helpful

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  • Clint
  • 01-21-20

First Book I have read of Robert’s. Now a fan

Loved it . Really enjoyed Sam and his character and the group of ‘misfits’. A beautiful ending

1 person found this helpful

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  • Adrianna Strafella Coyte-King
  • 06-15-18

Awesome

Where does one begin. One of the best books I have listened to in years. Thank You Mr Robert Dugoni.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michelle Korff
  • 03-31-22

One of the best books I've ever come across!

I love the story of Sam from start to finish! I couldn't wait to listen each day! Robert Dugoni is seriously my new favourite author!

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  • Carrin
  • 02-22-22

The extraordinary life of Sam Hell

The extraordinary life of Sam Hell.

It's been a long time since I have wanted to binge read a book. I'm so thankful this book was part of the daily deals on Kindle unlimited otherwise I wouldn't have come across it.

I loved the writing style and the short chapters never made the book feel to heavy, in fact it made me not want to put the book down, I just HAD to know what was coming next.

I enjoyed reading the story from the first person view, in saying that, the character development of Sam all the characters in this book were on point for me.

This was another book that made me feel all the emotions.