Shop Thoughts: SAM by Allegra Goodman


At a trade show for the publishing industry this past fall, I entered a ballroom lined with tables, and at each table sat an author with their new book stacked in front of them.  Beside them stood their handlers: publicists or sales reps from their publishing companies.  And in the center of the room milled booksellers with drinks in hand, delighted to be in each other’s company after two years without in-person contact.  So delighted, in fact, that many eschewed the opportunity to walk up to the authors and say hello — or take a copy of their book, which by now would weigh down an already full suitcase and might prove cumbersome on the walk to the dinner to follow.

I felt similarly, but I have also been on the other side of the table, not as an author, but as the handler sent by the publisher.  I know how it feels to stand there, desperate to keep the author occupied, to fill their time, make it worth their while, prove how well their book is going to do, allay their fears, feed their ego.

So, I walked up to as many tables as I could.  At one of the tables, the author asked where my store was located and when I said Beverly, she said, “But my book is set in Beverly,” and I, of course, settled in for a chat and grabbed an advance copy of the book.

Now, four months later, we are about to welcome that author, Allegra Goodman, to the store for an event on January 10 at 6 p.m. to discuss, read from, and sign her new book SAM (officially published on January 4).

I hope you’ll come out and join us.

Sometimes good books are hard to describe, or it can feel hard to fully encapsulate just why they’re so good.  SAM is the story of a girl’s adolescence, a coming-of-age story like many others.  But what makes it so special is Goodman’s ability to give one girl’s story weight and specificity, making the personal universal, especially through the use of a first-person narration that grows increasingly sophisticated as her main character ages.  We come to life’s hard realizations just as she does, in ways that can be bewildering, frustrating, anger-inducing, and disempowering, but also awe-inspiring and wondrous.

North Shore readers will find that Goodman, an author with many novels that have been National Book Award finalists and Massachusetts Book Award winners, has captured our home well.  We will recognize the landscape, the language, the beauty, and, yes, the blights.  This is what I look forward to discussing most with readers.  Because while Goodman, who lives in Cambridge full-time, has written something that will appeal to many across the country, we have the added bonus of dissecting the specificity of place.  Why did she choose Beverly as a setting?  What does it mean exactly?  Does it ring true? 

Allegra Goodman will be at the Book Shop of Beverly Farms, 40 West St, Beverly on January 10, 2023 at 6 p.m. for a discussion, reading, and signing of her new novel SAM. Admission is free. No registration required. Questions can be directed to the Book Shop at 978-927-2122 or

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