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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


1. What was your biggest takeaway from SAM and its titular narrator? What was most compelling to you about Sam’s story? How, if at all, did you identify with Sam’s personal challenges and desires?

2. For Sam, climbing is “not just a sport; it’s an art.” What does she mean by that statement? How does Sam express herself, and her unique vision, through the art of climbing?

3. Declan notes that climbing requires “half knowledge, half instinct...and a little bit [of] experience.” Discuss climbing as a metaphor for coming-of-age in this novel. You may also wish to factor in Sam’s burgeoning interest in geology. What does it take for Sam to feel grounded in her world?

4. Family instability is a major factor in Sam’s life (and theme in this book). Her home life is the exact opposite of Halle’s, for example; it’s also quite different from the multigenerational structure of Justin’s. What does the novel say about what families look like? How does Sam’s upbringing shape, disadvantage or motivate her?

5. Talk about the two fathers at the heart of SAM. Is Mitchell a sympathetic character? How do you feel about Jack? Do either of these men’s struggles --- with such issues as employment and substance abuse --- resonate with you, and how?

6. What does Sam show us about the pursuit of the American Dream? What are the risks and rewards of following your heart? Finding your passion? What sacrifices do the adults in this novel, from Courtney and Adam to Beth and Ann, make (or not) on behalf of their children?

7. Sam’s mother tells her not to be superstitious. “You make your own luck,” Courtney says. But Sam isn’t so sure; she thinks that “other people’s luck can crush you.” Do each of their beliefs hold true throughout the course of the novel? How or why not? Which, if at all, do you believe?

8. We are taught, as young readers, that there is a moral to every story. Do you believe that fiction, by and large, is meant to teach us something important about the world and ourselves? And, if so, what do you think Allegra Goodman intends for us to take away from SAM?

9. If you had the chance to ask the author one question about Sam --- about the writing process, the characters or the plot --- what would it be?

10. What kind of future do you imagine for Sam beyond the final chapter of this book?

by Allegra Goodman

  • Publication Date: November 14, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
  • ISBN-10: 0593447832
  • ISBN-13: 9780593447833