- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Selected for Good Morning America's Read This! on June 5, 2003.
“Powerful…Wise…The novel is alive because writers like Price are crafting books like Samaritan, about a guy who discovers the hard way what a complicated transactions charity can be…For all the homework that went into Clockers, Price was never a dealer or a cop. But he has been what Ray is in Samaritan, an intruder in other people’s lives. His fellow feeling with this character goes deep. What he knows about Ray you don’t learn by researching the streets. Instead, you prowl your own heart. It’s one more beat that Price knows how to walk with authority.”
–Richard Lecayo, Time
“Without dictating Price’s fiction, reality inspires his imagination, provoking a finely detailed and immensely readable inquiry into what might be called the double nature of benevolence…Where a typical crime novel would traffic in surprises and twists, Price has always eschewed the formula. The wisdom and impact of his recent books derive from his insight into just how unspectacular crime can be. The perpetrators in Price’s fiction act less out of passion or greed than drudgery and shattered hope…On the narrative journey from mystery to resolution, Price demonstrates his usual gifts for dialogue, detail and empathetic portraiture…When a novelist stays that close to the ground, there is no confusing illusion with actuality…Wrenching.”
–Samuel G. Freedman, Chicago Tribune (front page)
“Price is renowned for in-your-face fiction: violent, fast-paced, yet morally complex…He’s also demonstrated a flair for believable dialogue and visual detail…[Samaritan is] another of Price’s first-rate urban morality plays–a compassionate, politically savvy whodunit that reads like Dostoevsky circa 2003…He proves himself to be one of our best chroniclers of big-city experience.”
–Paul Evans, Book
“A full-to-bursting package held together by a strong, suspenseful plot… Unknowability is the key to Ray Mitchell, the essence of what makes him such a fascinating saint…Ray is preternaturally alert, alive to the mental states of those around him. Price, through Ray’s alertness, gives even minor characters a real, if temporary, being. And yet–and here’s the miracle–because it’s Ray’s alertness, the novel, though various and populous, feels centered on his character and therefore strong. Price does this in few words. It’s not a function of I.Q. It’s not articulate. It’s more like a prickling of the flesh…A demographic epic filled with little people who command true human feeling…”
–Mark Costello, New York Times
“Price’s seventh novel ranks with the best of the others…His books have the gutsy appeal of the classiest hard-boiled mysteries: fast pace, tripping idiomatic dialogue, unpredictable plot swerves, zingy sex, and genuine suspense…But [Samaritan] also possesses philosophical breadth, clearheaded social commentary, and a fine facility with language…Price’s vivid documentation may tease us into thinking we are in Dempsy, New Jersey, but in fact we are in existentialist territory… So quirky a mix of virtues makes [Price] unique…Terrific.”
–Lynne Sharon Schwartz, The New Leader
“[Samaritan] hurtles along like the PATH train that traverses Price’s urban landscape, weaving back and forth, before and after the severe beating of Ray Mitchell [whose] complexity is matched by the detective investigating the crime…Price’s dialogue rings true throughout, and his sense of place is solid and of the moment.”
–Ellen Rubin, Elle
“Price is not just a gifted writer but also one who thinks long and hard about human behavior...We know from page one that we’re in good hands, with masterful detail, vivid scene-setting, and acutely observed, naturalistic dialogue. The crime-solving framework pulls us forward but is unencumbered by the pedantic detail of a police procedural, and the depth of the characterizations is magnificent: [The main characters] and the considerable supporting cast are fully imagined beings who surprise us but never test our credulity. Enmeshed in this taut storytelling is a meditation on the complicated nature of giving, and a caution that, with ill-considered charity, we can hurt others even when we think we’re doing them a favor. Superb.”
–Keir Graff, Booklist (starred and boxed review)
“Richard Price is, without a doubt, one of our greatest living novelists. His voice is comic, skeptical, and at all times, deeply humane. Samaritan is a masterpiece, a novel that is actually about–surprise of surprises–the world we live in now. Violent, tender, hilarious, and heartbreaking, it is a world that, in Price’s hands, is so ably rendered that even its smallest truths attain the power of universal myth.”
–Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River
“It seems to me that Richard Price has taken his gifts for rendering human speech and for describing the jittery uncertainty of life at the bottom, and created a narrative filled with the sweet despair such as would come from angels looking down on us and watching us suffer.”
“The great literature of the world is derived from the mean streets, and no American writer knows them better, or can drive a story line harder, than Richard Price. Samaritan burns, not only with stylistic eloquence but with relentless certainty–from each richly evocative scene, each amazingly felt character, to the next. Price writes the way an architect builds, sketching out his plan, thinking it over to the most minute details. Thus the foundations of Samaritan are so fundamentally valid that its presentation is a masterpiece of the form. Price has artfully concealed a haunting treatise on the nuances and ambiguities of human decency, compassion, and generosity in the guise of a superlative thriller. Samaritan is Price’s best book to date.”
–Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist at Rest
“One has come to expect from Richard Price, the most brilliant of sardonic ironists, an eye for revelation in the commonplace, even a kind of modern social history. But Samaritan is also a subtle story of seduction and abandonment, of the dangerous luxury of responsibility, and the risks that are inevitable when one is capable of love.”
–Susanna Moore, author ofIn the Cut
“The mastery of urban melodrama that Price demonstrated in literate blockbusters like Clockers (1992) and Freedomland (1998) keeps growing and deepening–as evidenced in [this] story of a neighborhood and of conflicting ways of life…A virtuoso alternation of advancing action with detailed flashbacks shows how…this mystery raises troublesome ghosts from the past, while also introducing a boldly drawn gallery of involved and potentially guilty characters...A ferocious admixture of bleak wit and sorrowful compassion…The story positively vibrates with Price’s trademark virtues of pinpoint observation and punchy dialogue…And the killer climax and ironic denouement couldn’t be improved upon. Magnificent stuff. If Elmore Leonard broke out of genre and were 30 years younger, he’d be Richard Price.”
–Kirkus (starred review)
“Richard Price’s Samaritan is gripping, ambitious, and resonant entertainment, everything you hope to find in an American novel and so rarely do. This is the work of a fiercely honest writer at the top of his game.” –George Pelecanos, author of Hell to Pay
“I read Richard Price for the cool, spare sound of his writing, his words, the language he has in his bag that fits so exactly in his settings. The characters talk the talk; the main one, Nerese Ammons, a gem, 20 years a cop in the NY-NJ iron triangle, lays open the plot, scene after scene, at a beautiful pace. Richard Price has written a terrific novel.” –Elmore Leonard
“Samaritan blew my mind . . . I don’t think anyone ever sent me a book in hopes of a comment that was this good . . . An absolutely riveting story. The reader is hooked from the first page . . .” –Stephen King
“The mastery of urban melodrama that Price demonstrated in literate blockbusters like Clockers (1992) and Freedomland (1998) keeps growing and deepening–as evidenced in [this] story of a neighborhood and of conflicting ways of life…A virtuoso alternation of advancing action with detailed flashbacks shows how…this mystery raises troublesome ghosts from the past, while also introducing a boldly drawn gallery of involved and potentially guilty characters...A ferocious admixture of bleak wit and sorrowful compassion…The story positively vibrates with Price’s trademark virtues of pinpoint observation and punchy dialogue…And the killer climax and ironic denouement couldn’t be improved upon. Magnificent stuff. If Elmore Leonard broke out of genre and were 30 years younger, he’d be Richard Price.” –Kirkus (starred review)
Ray - January 4
Entering Paulus Hook High School for only the second time since graduation twenty-five years earlier, Ray approached the security desk, a rickety card table set up beneath a blue-and-gold Christmas/Kwanza/Hanukkah banner, which still hung from the ceiling in the darkly varnished lobby four days into the New Year.
The uniformed guard standing behind the sign-in book was a grandmotherly black woman: short, bespectacled, wearing an odd homemade uniform of fuzzy knit watch cap, gray slacks and a commando sweater, a khaki ribbed pullover with a saddle-shaped leather patch straddling the left shoulder.
"You got a visitor's pass?" she asked Ray as he hunched over the sign-in sheet.
"Me? I'm here to guest-teach a class."
"They give you a teacher's ID?"
"A what?" Then, "No..."
Straightening up, he was struck with a humid waft of boiled hot dogs and some kind of furry bean-based soup that threw him right back into tenth grade. "Today's my first day."
. . .
With all regulation classrooms booked at this hour, Ray had been offered the faculty lounge to conduct his volunteer writers' workshop, but in his anxiety for this thing to come off he had shown up too early, walking in on four real teachers brown-bagging it around a long conference table that centered the room.
Despite his stranger status, not one of them even looked his way, and after standing inside the doorway for an awkward moment, he quietly maneuvered himself behind a large scuffed desk wedged into a corner and just sat there waiting for the period-ending bell.
The teachers, all men, seemed to be working their way through a hit list of rotten apples.
"Out. I talked with his mother and I think he's out of the house, too."
"Out. I just told him. I swear, that kid does 'Bewildered' better than anybody on two feet. 'Mr. Rosen, what I do? Suspended! Why?' Because you're on your own fuckin' planet, Edgardo..."
"How about Templeton..."
"I'm giving him one last chance."
"Aw, he got to you with that smile, huh?"
"Nah, nah nah, I just said, 'Hey Curtis, there's a new statute on the books-Consorting with Known Morons. I see you with Dukey, Ghost, or any of that crew? I don't care if it's a country mile from school property. You're vaporized.'"
"Don't worry, he understood me loud and clear."
They were either ignoring him or simply letting him be, Ray scanning the walls, taking in the student artwork; mostly crude cut-felt mosaics featuring idyllic tableaus of urban positivism: a black family eating dinner together, multicolored neighbors planting a community garden, big brown kids reading to little brown kids.
When the bell finally rang, the teachers at the table groaned to their feet, as reluctant to go back to the classrooms as any of the students.
Three of them filed out of the lounge without ever acknowledging him, but the last one made a stop at the desk, leaning forward on his knuckles to offer a confidence.
"I would rate ninety-six percent of the kids in this school from OK to great; the other four percent are just stone fucking assholes taking up space and there's nothing we can do about it."
Alone now, Ray took in the disembodied sound track of the students out in the halls, a steady murmurous stream of agitation, punctuated by squawks, bird caws and bellows.
Five minutes went by, the muffled hullabaloo gradually fading away out there, yet he found himself still facing an empty room.
To conceal from himself how awkward and vaguely embarrassed he was beginning to feel, he began fiddling with his cell phone; checking for messages, calling the sports hotline, the 970 weather forecast; played with his datebook; then scribbled down a few introductory notes for his phantom students; coming off busy as hell, yet when the school's principal, Bill or Bob Egan, knocked on the open door of the empty lounge, Ray almost shot to his feet with relief.
1. The novel begins as Ray tells his daughter Ruby a story from his boyhood in the Hopewell Houses. What is the significance of such stories for Ray? How good a storyteller is he? What is the effect of framing the plot within the story of Tweetie’s injury and his attempt to help her?
2. Chapter 5 gives an account of the information Bobby Sugar has gathered on Ray, including credit card charges and bank withdrawals, medical history, employment, address changes, etc. What does this chapter tell us about the way police detectives shape their view of a person and his or her possible motivations? How is that process similar to, or different from, the way a novelist creates a character?
3. Compare the book’s epigraph from Matthew 6:1–3 to the scene in which Ray, with Ruby present, gives Carla a check for the full amount of her son’s funeral [p. 109]. Ray’s ex-wife Claire comments, “Ray likes to save people, you know, sweep them off their feet with his generosity. It’s a cheap high if you’ve got the money, but basically it’s all about him” [p. 125]. How serious is this flaw in Ray’s character, and why does Price make Ray’s desire to help the novel’s central theme?
4. What is the effect of the novel’s structure—with chapters moving back and forth in time—on your reading experience? Why might Price have chosen to construct the plot in this way?
5. In one of Nerese’s many moments of insight, she muses about Ray:
“The constant white-black casting made her uncomfortable—no, made her angry; but that anger was tempered by the intuition that this compulsion in him wasn’t really about race; that the element of race, the chronic hard times and neediness of poor blacks and Latinos was primarily a convenience here, the schools and housing projects of Dempsy and other places like a stocked pond in which he could act out his selfish selflessness over and over…and that he was so driven by this need, so swept away by it, that he would heedlessly, helplessly risk his life to see it played out each and every time until he finally drew the ace of spades, or swords, and got the obituary that would vindicate him, bring tears to his eyes; key word, ‘beloved,’ if only he could figure out some way to come back from the dead long enough to read it.” [p. 215]
In Nerese’s view, Ray is driven primarily by narcissism, by an obsessive desire to be needed and to be thanked. Is her observation correct? Does this motive outweigh the good that Ray tries to do?
6. How incisive is Price as an analyst of race relations? In his desire to “give back,” is there any way for Ray to be comfortable about race, to enter his old community as an affluent white man offering help? Does Ray recognize that in giving Carla the money for the funeral he humiliates her, winning her resentment rather than her gratitude [pp. 109–110]?
7. Is Nerese the moral and emotional anchor of the novel? Why or why not? Given that she and Ray have come from the same place, how have they handled their lives differently? What are the differences in psychology of these two characters? What motivates them?
8. Discuss the relationship between Ruby and Nelson, two children of nearly the same age who are thrown together by Ray and Danielle’s sexual liaison. Why does Ruby refuse to apologize to Nelson when she hits him with the softball? What is the meaning of the story Ruby shares with Ray’s writing class [pp. 353–54]? Why does Price make children such a crucial part of the story?
9. Is Ray exploiting Danielle, or is she exploiting him in their sexual relationship? What motivates Danielle to involve herself and her son with Ray? She sees herself as an independent and self-motivated woman; Ray sees her as a woman who has chosen to stay in a marriage with a drug dealer [pp. 198–201]. Who is right?
10. Samaritan is a drama of redemption, or self-redemption. Why is shame referred to as one of Ray’s defining characteristics? Does he have good reason to feel ashamed of himself? Why does Ray need to redeem himself? How successful is he in his efforts to do so?
11. Who is the most likely suspect for the crime against Ray—Salim, Freddy Martinez, Danielle? To what degree is suspense—the “whodunit” quality—important in a novel like this?
12. How does the character of Salim come across? Why does Samaritan end with Salim, and a chapter called “Thank You” [pp. 370–77]?
13. Discuss Chapter 32, in which Nerese and Ray tell each other about their future plans. What do we learn about Nerese’s past and the way it shaped her life? What is she trying to tell Ray about adults’ responsibility to children? Does it seem that Nerese will be happier once she retires from the police department?
14. In a blurb for the hardcover Elmore Leonard stated, “I read Richard Price for the cool, spare sound of his writing, his words, the language he has in his bag that fits so exactly in his settings. The characters talk the talk.” Do you agree with his assessment? Find a few passages that exemplify Price’s strengths as a stylist and discuss their qualities with your group.
15. With Samaritan, Richard Price again reveals himself to be committed to writing novels that awaken his readers to raw and painful social problems. Charles Taylor commented:
“It seems to me that in reporting on some of society’s bedrock institutions (in this case, prisons and the police) and on communities that many of us are either cut off from or see solely in terms of social problems (thus robbing the inhabitants of their individuality) Price is doing work that we should expect from our major novelists. . . . Though Samaritan is his bleakest book, you put it down convinced he is trying to find, in the midst of racial and economic divisions, the things that we share. He’s the reporter-novelist as despairing humanist.” [Salon.com]
How powerful is Samaritan’s social vision? Does it have a message or a lesson for its readers? What questions and issues does the novel leave unresolved?
Posted May 1, 2007
Richard Price has written the thinking person's novel, Samaritan. The dialogue is excellent Price really catches nuance and tone. The book is populated with interesting characters who are fully fleshed out and complete. But above all this, the story is interesting and told well. When the climax arrived, I wasn't expecting it and the denoument is true to character. Read it. I'm giving it 4 stars I'd give it 4.5 if I could.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 29, 2003
Posted May 30, 2003
Richard Price is, at heart, a comic writer, and he can't resist riffing at the most dire and edgy moments. Price also happens to be one of the best dialogue writers going. 'Samaritan' is Dostoevsky with a sense of humor. The best parts of 'Samaritan' are Ray Mitchell's interaction with his teenage daughter, Ruby, and his girlfriend's son, Nelson. The scenes are touching and hilarious. I remember reading one of Price's earlier books, 'Ladies' Man', in the College of Charleston Library, and laughing out loud to the point of disturbing people seated nearby. The beginning of that book starts out with a Canterbury-Tales parade of no-count singers and comedians trying to get into a NYC club expressly set up to mock bad talent. The mix of compassion for and impatience with these loser/dreamers is what makes Price such a perceptive writer. 'Samaritan' has that same blend of compassion for and impatience with the characters, except Price has a lot more respect for small kindnesses in the characters than he used to, a sign of his more mature vision. 'Samaritan' is a philosophical, street-lyrical book that'll make you laugh and think all the way through.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 18, 2003
I jumped on the Richard Price bandwagon years ago with Sea of Love and Clockers. This author would have to work very hard to lose me as a fan. Samaritan is set in the same down-and-out housing project as Clockers. It's a neighborhood people move from, never to. Those who remain are suspect--they have to be damaged in some way, either financially or morally to not find a way out. The storyline surprises, and it doesn't. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out 'who done it' won't have to stretch too far with this story. The perpetrator's identity is not the payoff here. It's Price's ability to get inside people and make them so real, you can want to hug them and slap them at the same time. Yeah, just like the real people we all share our lives with. Samaritan is something of a morality play. Price never pretends that his hero is anything other than flawed and human. Very much like ourselves. We can read this story and learn from it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 22, 2011
No text was provided for this review.