Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: The Samaritan

Fred Venturini
Adult Contemporary Fiction
214 Pages
Blank Slate Press
Available Now
Received for review from TLC Book Tours

Warning: Review contains mild spoilers

Dale Sampson has always been the smart kid. The one who's not popular with the girls or friends with all the guys, but keeps to himself and continues to get his good grades. That all changes one day on the playground at recess when popular, athletic Mack Tucker saves Dale from some cruel girls using him to get Mack's attention.

Best friends from that moment on, Dale spends most of his high school years watching Mack get laid while nursing a crush on Regina, twin sister to Mack's current girlfriend. Though initially rejected, Dale is doggedly determined to win Regina's affections, and he seems to be making headway until she is brutally taken from him when a jealous ex-boyfriend ends her life.

Now, years later, Dale is still suffering from the pain of Regina's death, living alone and contemplating suicide on a daily basis. Things change dramatically for Dale again when he meets Regina's twin sister at her job at Wal-Mart, and makes it his new life's purpose to save her from an abusive marriage to make up for his inability to save her sister. With his unique ability to regrow limbs and organs, an ability he discovered after Regina's murder, Dale sets out to find Mack in Los Angeles, becoming the subject of a new television show he hopes will get Regina's sister's attention, and finally earn him the love he has been searching for all his life.


The Samaritan is a story that spans a mere two hundred pages yet feels infinitely longer–not because it drags or is poorly written, but rather because pain and anguish hover ominously between the pages, enveloping us in their suffocating blackness and leaving us weary and exhausted as we close the back cover and attempt to shed their lasting effects. We are unapologetically exposed to the cyclical nature of physical abuse and self-destruction, reading with increasing anxiety as the horrific rape and murder of a friend, classmate, and romantic interest infects every aspect of Dale's life. We find ourselves drawn into the never-ending emotional circle, his torment and guilt seeming to be compounded by our own as we wallow in a shared agony we know not how to escape. This is by no means an easy read, and is one that should not be entered into lightly, its language and violence both plentiful and graphic as it promises no happy endings, but rather only the dark reality of two individuals forever changed by the pull of a trigger.

For those of us used to snuggling in the warm cocoon of young adult fiction or romance where grief, misery, and and sorrow are certainly present but are often accompanied by the pulsing lifeline of hope to guide us through the trials and tribulations of that particular world, reading The Samaritan is a bit like being tossed into a tub of ice cold water. The jolt is powerful, uncomfortable, and not necessarily an experience we wish to repeat. That is absolutely not to say this is a bad book or one to be avoided, not at all, it just has a startlingly different feel to someone used to the comfort of their familiar genre. Part of the initial shock stems from both the vulgar verbal exchanges between Dale and an extremely womanizing Mack, as well as Mack's rather cavalier approach to physical intimacy–a combination that leaves us a bit overwhelmed at times by the bluntness of their thoughts on women. Though their conversations and actions are no doubt realistic, for perhaps a naive and hopeless romantic such as myself, it's a reality that leaves a lingering unpleasant residue.

The Samaritan will certainly appeal to a wide variety of readers as Mr. Venturini is a very talented writer with a gift for characterization, his story is just one where the hero doesn't always save the day or get the girl, but instead wraps himself in a blanket of guilt and shame, comforted only briefly by thoughts of suicide before pulling the blanket tighter around himself as he exists rather than lives. Mr. Venturini does add an interesting twist with Dale's ability to regrow limbs–a new and unusual approach to helping him find a purpose again. The self-sacrificing and self-destructive cycle is ever-present though, keeping both Dale and us on its painful circuitous ride as we wish more than anything we could step off and find purchase on still ground where happiness and peace might actually be able to locate us if we just remain stationary.

Rating: 3/5


  1. Love the review and the interesting cover of this one, but I don't think it's for me. It sounds super heavy and I like my books to have a much lighter tone.

  2. I think I'll stick to my comfortable warm bath of YA :-) This sounds very interesting, but it exemplifies why I prefer YA over adult fiction. Life as a grown-up is so difficult. I much prefer to escape by reading about something with hope.
    And the cover is creepy.

  3. This sounds really interesting, but an emotionally tough read. Maybe I'll take a look at it this summer.

  4. Wow, this sounds like a really emotional and heavy read. I don't mind books that push me outside my comfort zone if I am in the mood for it. Great review Jenny :)

  5. I first looked at the cover and wondered what might this book be about. Though the story does sound pretty ntense I dont think this book would be for me either.

  6. I love reality-oriented books; The Samaritan sounds like something I would definitely like. It sounds like a thought-provoking book. Thanks for the review!

  7. Thanks for taking the time to read my novel, and for the thoughtful review. As a guy who writes quite a few straight horror stories, I'm glad you found it powerful and uncomfortable. You pointed out the differences in YA romance and the way it's depicted in a book like this, and I thought that was pretty interesting. A college kid could probably write a paper about how romance is handled in different genres.

    Big thanks to Jenny and a big thanks to anyone who is piqued enough to check out my novel.


  8. The cover looks good but I am not sure about feeling lots of pain while reading it. Although I do like a lot of emotion. Great review Jenny!!

  9. hmmmmm this is so not something I'd like to read right now =/ Thanks for the review hon!

  10. That is kind of how I felt about The Room. I have decided I can only handle about 3 of those types of books a year. They are often very well written but just leave me with a hallow but they deserved more type of feeling!

    Great Review!

  11. Zahida - I just like there to be some sliver of hope running through the book somewhere, or some sliver of future hope, and this one was just a bit dark all the way through.

    Alison - Very true, Dale's life was definitely difficult! It was a good read, I felt so tired after reading it because everything felt heavy.

    Jennifer - It was a tough read, not in a bad way though.

    Nic - I agree, I think I had just finished a bunch of YA books when I picked this up and I was in a happy young adult place and then this one was like WAM! I wasn't prepared:)

    Jenny - Intense is a good word:)

    Misha - I think this one might be right up your alley!

    Fred - Thanks so much for commenting!

    Savannah - I like a lot of emotion as well and this one definitely has it, it's just much darker:)

    Larissa - You're welcome!

    Felicia - Exactly. I ran and picked up a nice romance after I read it where I knew things were going to work out eventually:)

  12. For those of us used to snuggling in the warm cocoon of young adult fiction or romance where grief, misery, and and sorrow are certainly present but are often accompanied by the pulsing lifeline of hope to guide us through the trials and tribulations of that particular world...

    Oh gosh, that is totally me... I don't know if I would be able to stomach this book (though it does sound like an amazing read).

    Thanks for the great review Jenny!

  13. First you freaked me out with the book cover, then you depressed me with the book description. Thanks a lot!

  14. Holy crap. I usually am all about the sad reads, but I don't think I can take this one . . I need a fun stuff after the sad stuff that's come out lately. Very nice review, Jenny. This sounds like a difficult, but very involved read.

  15. Avery - That's me too, I like my cocoon. It makes me happy:)

    Ruby - You're welcome;) Glad I could be helpful!

    Linds - It was a lot for me to get through, I just wanted Dale to be happy and it wasn't in the cards for him.

  16. I don't think this book is for me, but it does reminds me to come more often out of my comfort zone. :)

  17. Great review @ cover, I don't know if it's for me either.

  18. Wow- Jenny took a ride on the emo-side. This book actually sounds like one I would read. I have to be in the right frame of mind of course but I like the intense darker reads that face real life....

    But I also like princess fluff candy books too..!

  19. It's interesting to consider whether or not Dale had a sliver of hope as the novel progresses.

    I like to think that any person or character, no matter what their situation, always has a little bit of hope, even if it's just a flicker. It's kind of like that scene in "Castaway," when Tom Hanks is about to start a fire, and heats up the kindling, and it's not quite a flame yet, he's just blowing on it and protecting it, waiting for it to start flaming up. I like to think that Dale has that little ember of hope and throughout the book he's just sort of protecting it as it threatens to extinguish completely.

    I wasn't so sure if he would succeed or not. Maybe I'm still not quite sure, but I have a pretty strong hunch :)

    I have found it pretty comforting when I have had people tell me the book is gritty or realistic when one of the main characters can regrow his organs and limbs. I take that as a positive sign that I took the right approach, but as always, it's up to the readers to decide that.

  20. Nina - I know I need to step out of my comfort zone a bit more, but the paranormal YA and romance genre just makes me happy:)

    Tribute - Thanks:)

    Tina - I know right? Shocking. I actually really like dark books, they're some of the most memorable for me, but this one was just hard to read because I wanted things to work out so badly for him.

    Fred - Very true, I guess I just needed it to be a bit bigger of a flicker:) Like I said, I'm probably pretty naive in my approach to romance and relationships, but I guess I just wanted Dale to be happy as opposed to still carrying around all his guilt and settling for a woman he knows he'll never say "I love you" to. I don't mind a dark journey, but I'm definitely a happily-ever-after type of girl, I can't help it!

  21. Again a cover that kind of just scares me away. I am a horrid coverlover

  22. Sounds like a really intense book. Definitely something that you have to be in the right mood for, but I can't say that I am at the moment. I might pick it up later. Thanks for the review, Jenny!

  23. I just finished a book that had a similar feel, and it was emotionally draining. Lovely review, I definitely know what you mean about wanting the painful ride to stop so you can just be able to breath again. In a way, I love being that connected to a story but in another, I rather not.

  24. The cover on this one just totally puts me off. I enjoyed your review, but I don't think this one is for me.

  25. HI Jenny. Wow, this really did take you out of your comfort zone! I'm very grateful for all the time and emotional energy you put into reading and reviewing the book. Thank you so much for being on the tour!

  26. I don't mind dark, but Mack would get on my nerves quick. Plus, I don't know... looks like a freezer book to me. I might need to scream at the book from time to time. That's not good on my dog's nerves. Great review, but don't think this book is for me.

  27. This sounds very intriguing, but I'm not sure I'd really be able to handle it, you know? I think I just need to escape, if that makes sense, and while I like my comfort zones tested...this might be a bit much haha fab review though!

  28. new GFC follower! excited to read more of your blog!! looks like an interesting book!

    follow me?!

  29. Jenny-

    Since you didn't getting any happy feelings out of the book did you get anything from it?
    Like did you learn anything about yourself or the world or did it make you look at something in a different way?


  30. Blodeuedd - I'm a bit of a cover snob and while this one I find unnerving, it definitely fits with the book:)

    Rummanah - That's exactly right, I need time to prepare myself for this type of book!

    Missie - Couldn't agree more!

    Slowest - It definitely pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone, but I think it will be a good book for a lot of people, maybe just not so much me:)

    Lisa - Haha yeah, I think it was good for me:) Thank you again for letting me on the tour!

    Melissa - Yes, Mack was someone I had some trouble with. Dale I could relate to on some levels and I definitely felt for him and his loneliness, and while I really liked how much Mack cared for Dale, his "relationships" with women I found off putting.

    Melissa - I like escape too. I like to escape right into my world of teen angst and drama:)

    Lindsay - Thanks for the follow!

    Heather - For me, I think this is a book that I can appreciate because it's very well written and I did emotionally connect to Dale, but it was almost a relief to be done with it if that makes sense? Not because it was bad, I just needed to escape the heaviness of it. It did make me notice that I live a bit of a sheltered life and that all relationships aren't as healthy as mine with the husband:)

  31. Sounds depressing and painful... I need to be in a a very specific mood to read a book like this and I don't see myself being in this mood anytime soon with the high stress in my life. I need some form of escape and I don't believe this read can give that to me. Still, I enjoyed reading your review and I thank you for it!