Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Samaritan -- a review

I wasn’t expecting philosophy when I opened Fred Venturini’s book, The Samaritan, (Blank Slate Press) but philosophy is what I got.

“To age is to embrace a slow hurt inside and out, to collect scars like rings on a tree, dark and weathered and sometimes only visible if someone cuts deep enough. Scars keep the past just close enough to touch, but healing is forgetting. Healing invites another cut. Healing is the tide that smoothes away our line in the sand.

For life to begin, the damage must be permanent.”

Pain and healing can add layers of meaning to life, but for two poor school boys from a small town in Illinois, the process takes years to complete, and leaves a few scars. Dale Sampson is the anti-hero, an interesting but unlikeable young man who discovers he has a special gift – the ability to regenerate limbs and organs. Like many people who are blessed with a particular talent or gift, he struggles with how to use it. He examines its positive and negative implications throughout the book, pushing himself and readers to the edge of what they believe to be possible within the human spirit.

As a kid, Dale’s best friend Mack saves him from the kind of social damage that can wreak havoc on self-esteem. Mack opens the door to a world that Dale never would have been able to enter on his own. For Dale, life is a series of cuts and bruises waiting to heal. For Mack, life is a series of conquests, for which there is a winner and a loser. In school, at least, Mack is a winner.

After high school, Dale falls into a deep depression following the violent death of the woman he loves. He spends years sitting on his couch watching Matlock reruns, waiting to be whole again. Everything changes, though, during a trip to Wal-mart for Ramen Noodles. The cashier whose lane he chooses is the twin of the deceased woman. During the encounter, she tries unsuccessfully to hide a black eye. Something stirs in Dale, who now has a reason to live – to punish the man who did this to her because he cannot avenge the death of her sister.

The book takes us on a wild ride of hurting and healing in a plot full of twists, surprises and connections that will stay with readers for a long time. Add some reality television, religious ideas and a few fires, and you have one man’s quest to find meaning while nursing the invisible damage of sorrow and longing for something he may never understand.

The Samaritan is one of the first releases from Blank Slate Press, a St. Louis publishing company that makes me optimistic about the future of publishing. The Samaritan is a story well told – a fast read that I didn’t want to put down, but when I did (only because I had to go to work!) the characters stayed with me. The strength of the narrative combined with the emotional impact of the story left a lasting impression that will not fade.

Talk to you soon,



  1. great review -- makes me want to read the story. Hope it will come out on audible.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the book, too, Mary!

  3. Thanks Jen, it wasn't the type of book I normally read, but it really kept me interested!
    Thanks, Dianna, for sharing it with me!