An engaging and poignant story about a boy born with ocular albinism, a condition that makes the pupils of the eye red. This book follows him and his two closest friends, from childhood to adulthood. Sam's courage and determination will bring tears to your eyes, but will also inspire.   The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni.  #fiction, #reading, #books to read, #books

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

By Robert Dugoni

PBR Book Review:

In the Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Robert Dugoni creates a beautiful story about a boy born with a genetic abnormality, ocular albinism or red eyes. Growing up and attending Catholic school, he is called "Devil Boy " and is bullied and ostracized by classmates and surprisingly adults too. That is until one day Ernie, the only black child in school shows up. Sam and Ernie, are soon best friends and along with another outsider, Mickie, their strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie help them face the daily challenges of being different and not accepted. The story follows these three as they move forward into adulthood and define who they are. This book will tug at your heart and bring forth a few tears. Excellent for book clubs.

Book Club Talking Points:

A wonderful coming of age story about a boy born with red pupils. As a result, he's bullied and has few friends. Since there is a lot of discrimination: racial, sexual, disability, etc. there is much for book clubs to discuss. But it's also a book about strength and determination.
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*Discussion Questions

1. Sam faces challenges because he has a rare genetic disorder. His mother instilled in him that these red eyes were not rare but extraordinary and a gift from God. Talk about the effect this had on Sam and the importance of how it did or did not help shape him. Is this sentiment still popular today - if you are a mother would handle Sam's condition differently?

2. In school, Sam was bullied, ostracized and made to feel like an outsider. Discuss bullying and its impact on children and on Sam in particular. How do we handle bullying differently today? Discuss how the adult Sam confronted David Bateman, the same bully he faced in school and has to decide whether or not to be the doctor for David's daughter. What would you have done?

3. Sam, Ernie, and Mickie formed a special bond that helped them survive the prejudices of their world. Do you think their strong life long friendship was more than sharing the common feeling of being different than others? What did they learn from each other?

4. Why do you think Sister Beatrice treated Sam the way she did. Was this more surprising because she was a nun? What does Sam's final act towards her say about Sam?

5. There are many instances in the book where Sam struggled to understand and accept the events and people in his life. Discuss some of the ways Sam's faith was tested and the role faith played in his life.

6. Sam's mother wanted her son to live life to its fullest; his eyes were "God's will" and meant to make him extraordinary. Did Sam share this philosophy? Did he feel he lived up to his mother's expectations?

7. We are introduced to many people and events that pulled Sam down and made him question his existence. Although fewer in number, there are also those who nurtured and had a positive effect on Sam. Discuss some of these people.

8. Sam is very disappointed when he is not chosen for the much-deserved valedictorian. Talk about his reaction and was it the right one? How about Ernie's reaction?

9. Talk about Sam's decision to get colored contact lenses to hide his red eyes.

10. Discuss the impact Fernando had on Sam. Why do you think he stopped wearing contact lenses after meeting Fernando?

*Discussion Questions By - Feel free to use with attribution.
Book 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.
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