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The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

A Novel
Written by: Robert Dugoni
Narrated by: Robert Dugoni
Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (84 ratings)

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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 Robert Dugoni (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What the critics say

"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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This knocked it out of the park!

I like this author anyway... but this book was sensational! Thanks to Robert Dugoni for putting this story to paper and audible. I enjoyed every sound bite! So well written. So well thought out! So poignant! So many spots I found myself laughing out loud. I am going to buy a hard copy for my sister who doesn't listen to audible but who I think would love this book too. Robert Dugoni... well done! better than well done actually!! Home Run... Grand slam!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Extraordinary?

There is nothing extraordinary about this story, main character or narration. Nothing about Sam Hell’s life was beyond average. I’m mad I used my credits on this. It’s an easy listen but not very interesting or compelling.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Excellent!!

Loved the characters; loved the narration. Highly recommend if looking for a story that will make you laugh out loud as well as cry...well written. Thank you!

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Like tears?

So interesting I thought it was a true story and also did bring tears to my eyes which doesn’t happen easy.. enjoyed the read!

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Excellent

Really enjoyed this audiobook. The storyline has a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Well written and narrated.

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A Must

From the first sentence, to the last, this book was wonderful. I've never read this author before but will certainly look into his other works.

The story is seamless and the characters … good and bad … are believable.

I will listen to this again, and have put the book forward for my book club.


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Wonderful “Memoir”

I bought this book thinking the story would be interesting...I was worried that the author’s narration would be less than professional but was I in for a treat. The narration was the best I’ve heard in listening to many audiobooks! In fact I thought I misunderstood what this book was about when I bought it because after listening to the first third of the book I thought that the author was Sam Hell recounting his memories...his voice sounded so authentic I didn’t think he was acting or reading. Thank you for a wonderful story and performance Mr Dugoni!!! I plan on recommending this book to many people 😉

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really enjoyable

this was a really enjoyable book
the story was so well written I thought it was an actual account of the authors life for the first half lol. really great

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  • Ak
  • 2019-10-07

What a beautiful story :)

Absolutely love it. I can see this book become a movie one day. Can't stop listening once I started!

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great! especially for a first book!

loved this! my first audiobook, great narrator and story! I'm excited to look further into this authors stories.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Donna Smith McG
  • Smyrna, GA
  • 2018-05-18

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 💜❤️

238 of 247 people found this review helpful

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  • Roger M. Young
  • North Charleston, South Carolina United States
  • 2018-05-27

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.

262 of 273 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 2018-06-02

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!

82 of 86 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2018-05-13

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!!

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • k teed
  • ibillinsly@gmail
  • 2019-03-04

4.10 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: 4.10 stars

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Trent
  • SAN DIEGO, CA, United States
  • 2018-05-27

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.

55 of 59 people found this review helpful

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  • ally
  • 2018-05-03

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.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Debra Celovsky
  • 2018-06-14

Good story & an education

Ocular albinism. A condition most of us have likely never heard of, but around which Dugoni writes a good story. Rather heavily weighted in Catholic theology, but the family love at the core was always a delight. Not sure Dugoni was the best narrator for his story, but awarding 4 stars anyway.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-06-14

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.

53 of 61 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Rob
  • 2018-08-20

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.

108 of 126 people found this review helpful