I’m Not Sam

January 24, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

samI’m Not Sam by Jack Ketchum & Lucky McKee

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I’ve said before that Jack Ketchum does his best work when he keeps his focus on one, maybe two characters. With I’m Not Sam, he focuses his microscope on two people, Sam and Patrick, who have been married for nine years. When Sam wakes up one morning insisting that she’s not Sam, she’s Lily, and acts like she’s six years old, the story begins, and Ketchum leads us down the path of examination and discovery.

The story is powerful, not just because it makes the reader think, but also because Ketchum does a great job capturing Patrick, our narrator. He and Sam and Lily feel like real people, which is important because of how he tells us the story. Without them feeling realized, the story would fall flat. Instead, the story feels real, and takes us through the day-to-day life of a couple living in this strange situation.

The story is broken up into two sections, each a different chapter in the same story. The first section is the core of the story, and in the foreword to the book, the authors ask us to take time between the two sections to let the first one sink in. The second section is the resolution to the story, but it reminded me a little of the false endings in The Thing Beneath the Bed by Patrick Rothfuss; the story could end there and be complete, but you’re given the opportunity to read further. If you dare.

With I’m Not Sam, Ketchum has made a departure from his usual fare of graphic, violent fiction, instead turning his look inward, into the lives of a happily married couple, though he doesn’t shy away from showing us the darkness. The novella is an examination of personalities, and forces us to ask the question: What would we do in the same situation?

This novella is outstanding, and I would recommend it to just about any reader. Fans of dark fiction would probably like it best, but its lack of graphic violence and outright depravity tame it down enough to make it approachable for most readers. This is a great place for me to finish up reading the body of Ketchum’s work, because it will keep me reading his upcoming works as he writes them.

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