Sam: A Novel (Hardcover)
January 2023 Indie Next List
“You’ve never read a novel like Sam. Sam’s seminal years leave her insecure at best, entering adulthood with a number of missteps. Rock climbing gives her purpose; it doesn’t take her where she wants to go, but leads to unseen paths. Powerful.”
— Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
What happens to a girl’s sense of joy and belonging—to her belief in herself—as she becomes a woman? This unforgettable portrait of coming-of-age offers subtle yet powerful reflections on class, parenthood, addiction, lust, and the irrepressible power of dreams.
“There is a girl, and her name is Sam.” So begins Allegra Goodman’s moving and wise new novel.
Sam is seven years old and living in Beverly, Massachusetts. She adores her father, though he isn’t around much. Her mother struggles to make ends meet, and never fails to remind Sam that if she studies hard and acts responsibly, adulthood will be easier—more secure and comfortable. But comfort and security are of little interest to Sam. She doesn’t fit in at school, where the other girls have the right shade of blue jeans and don’t question the rules. She doesn’t care about jeans or rules. All she wants to climb. Hanging from the highest limbs of the tallest trees, scaling the side of a building, Sam feels free.
As a teenager, Sam begins to doubt herself. She yearns to be noticed, even as she wants to disappear. When her climbing coach takes an interest in her, his attention is more complicated than she anticipated. She resents her father’s erratic behavior, but she grieves after he’s gone. And she resists her mother’s attempts to plan for her future, even as that future draws closer.
The simplicity of this tender, emotionally honest novel is what makes it so powerful. Sam by Allegra Goodman will break your heart, but will also leave you full of hope.
“A sensitive portrait of life lived along the poverty line in modern-day America. Allegra Goodman offers a . . . sympathetic reflection on the struggles of a girl’s life. Anyone who has ever been the focus of a child’s impossibly inflated regard will feel alternately charmed and gutted by [Sam].”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“An irresistible coming-of-age portrait . . . a profound and gorgeously written gem about the tough, tender route Sam must navigate—grappling with friendships, love, insecurities and burgeoning womanhood—to chart her own course.”—People
“Goodman does a marvelous job of depicting this world of struggle and sacrifice, exhaustion and addiction, with neither condescension nor exaggeration. I admired Goodman’s empathy, wisdom, and commitment to telling the story of one ostensibly simple but ultimately meaningful life.”—Priscilla Gilman, The Boston Globe
“Sam is a novel for anyone who's witnessed a kid grow up, felt nostalgic, and yearned to watch the process all over again. Sam captures that unique magic of human development through the story of one steadfast girl.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“What seems at first to be a simple coming-of-age story deepens under its own weight and shows itself to be a beautiful meditation on all the ways we love and fail each other. I was moved by the cumulative power of Sam, and I’m still rooting for the characters.”—Ann Napolitano, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward
“Sam is a deeply wise and empathetic portrait of this unforgettable girl, making her way into this tricky world and into the reader’s life.”—Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of In Love
“Sam is one of the most evocative and tender examinations of youth that I’ve ever read . . . One of the best writers around, Goodman has made something truly beautiful, evoking a feeling that is hard to name but stirs inside us with every line.”—Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here
“Sam is about as perfect of a coming-of-age story I have ever read. It explores what happens when one girl loses the wonder of childhood—the innocence of her early years only to reclaim her power and hope. I fell into this novel and read it in one sitting.”—Jenna Bush Hager, Today
“Allegra Goodman’s Sam stands out among realistic coming-of-age novels about contemporary American girlhood. We care deeply how Sam’s story turns out, thanks to Goodman’s brilliance and empathy.”—Bookpage
“It’s impressive how much emotional power is packed into this . . . contained story.”—Publishers Weekly