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The Heart Does Not Grow Back

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  564 ratings  ·  120 reviews

Dale Sampson is used to being a nonperson at his small-town Midwestern high school, picking up the scraps of his charismatic lothario of a best friend, Mack. He comforts himself with the certainty that his stellar academic record and brains will bring him the adulation that has evaded him in high school. But when an unthinkable ca
Paperback, 312 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Picador (first published January 11th 2011)
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3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  564 ratings  ·  120 reviews

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Fred Venturini
Jun 25, 2014 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
I know the author so I thought it was worth a look. Cover art is fantastic but I just get the strange feeling I've read this thing a hundred times.
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

The Heart Does Not Grow Back was an unexpected surprise. I saw some readers designate it as Science Fiction, others who describe it as Horror, and even a few who tagged it as a superhero novel. As it often is in these cases, every single one of these categorizations are accurate, but none of them tell the whole story. It’s definitely a tough book to describe, but I’m also really glad I went into it with very little informa
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
The following is a copy of the review I left at amazon. The more I think about this book, the more I dislike it, the more I'm pretty bummed that I spent actual money on this, and the more I realize that I need to do that thing where I only spend money on new authors who are not white men. The women in this book are so shittily written, so poorly conceived, cliched and infuriating. This book does not give a shit about women who aren't fuckable, dying, or both.


I have no idea why Amazon re
Nov 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, ipad
I know I am going to be in the minority when I say I did not care for this book. It wasn't any where close to what I was expecting. Initially, the book plodded along through the developing relationship between Dale and Mack. Their friendship was odd as they were so opposite that it was hard to imagine them being friends in the first place. But, hey, stranger things have happened, right? Then the story got kind of weird and disturbing and I just couldn't read anymore. Not a lot shocks me, but the ...more
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
(A version was previously published as THE SAMARITAN by Blank Slate Press.)

Dale Sampson, through a fortuitous game of Blind Man's Bluff becomes Mack Tucker's best friend. Before that, Dale was a lonely, ignored boy. But together, he and Mack have big dreams. That is, until a horrific tragedy at the end of their junior year. A tragedy that leads to Dale discovering that he can regenerate.

THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK begins much like a YA novel, full of young love and sports triumph. It becomes so
Mar 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book got a lot of four and five star reviews, so maybe I missed the point, but I'm going to be quite the outlier here. Sorry, I didn't like it at all.

Our main character, Dale, is a pathetic, self-pitying, self-absorbed, wishy-washy idiot. If he only started out that way and then figured things out that would be one thing, but it just never happens. He never really learns anything significant, even to the last pages. Why do I want to spend three hundred pages reading about this guy? Sadly, I
The Sunday Book Review
Awesome. First word that comes to mind when I think about this book. The first 7 chapters were very real. And then the twist comes in Chapter 8. And you can't help but hold on for the ride. Here is a man who never was much growing up, and now he has learned that his body parts grow back at an astonishing rate. Fingers, ears, even tonsils. Now he feels invincible, will he finally be able to make a change in lives of people around him?

Fred Venturini did an amazing job grabbing the reader right fro
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Win a copy of this book here:

I first read The Samaritan, the previously published version of The Heart Does Not Grow Back, in 2011. I loved it (see

You know that feeling you get when you watch an incredibly awesome movie for the first time? You watch that same movie over and over, but you’re never able to replicate that original rush in full force. You wish that you could forget the movie, just so you can experien
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stand-alone, sci-fi
Probably 4.5/5 stars

Review Posted from Tenacious Reader:

I couldn’t put this book down. I’ll start with that. And when I went to set up my review for it, and I had to assign it a genre, I really didn’t know what to put it as. The closest thing I can compare it to genre-wise is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. That is science fiction, but the story is not really so much about the science fiction aspect of it, rather the science-fiction element is more
Ranting Dragon
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: benni

The Samaritan begins when Dale Sampson is in the sixth grade. Girls don’t talk to him. And when the school baseball star, Mack, decides to befriend Dale, Dale earns an air of mystique—but he remains luckless when it comes to the opposite sex. Later in high school, when Dale is about to graduate, when it seems he may finally win the girl of his dreams, those dreams are shattered.

So when he discovers that he can regenerate his body parts, he decides that if
Benoit Lelièvre
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What difference can a great ending make.

Here's the lowdown about THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK. It comes rip roaring out of the gates with the most original and daring sixty pages about high school you've ever read in your life. Then, the novel gets more complicated and by the time I was hearing into the final curve, I was wondering if I had been tricked into reading one of these annoying coming-of-age novel about proving yourself to people you went to high school with. But that ending. It was be
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to describe, which is a good thing. Is realist fantasy a genre? Or maybe rural fable? Is an anti-superhero a thing?

Working as both a study of friendship and as satire, THE SAMARITAN manages to maintain emotional resonance within a fantasy premise. I won't get into the details, because the discovery is half the fun. Just suffice it to say, it's a blast.

The really great element of the book is how it never lets the high-concept premise take over, but rather keeps it tucked in t
SoWrongItsRANDI {Bell, Book & Candle}
Bell, Book & Candle | The Heart Does Not Grow Back Review, Spotlight & Giveaway

ARC courtesy of Picador in exchange for an honest review

I can't remember the last time a book has kept me up half the night thinking about it. With everything that happened in the story, I couldn't help but take it personal. I was angry; I was upset. I really could not get it out of my head. This is not to say that I disliked the book; if any story can elicit such strong emotions from me, it is usually a good
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
4 1/2 Stars!!

The nitty-gritty: Violent, dark, and unexpected, a story about saving the people you love, without destroying yourself in the process.

I took the gun out, a familiar .38 purchased at our local Super Wal-Mart. At first, I kept it under the middle couch cushion and didn’t bring it out for weeks at a time. I’ve since warmed up to the prospect of holding it, watching the light die in the matte finish of the barrel. When you fondle a gun, it starts out cool and warms up, getting friendly
Allen Adams
Nov 19, 2014 rated it really liked it

Some of the best stories spring from extraordinary things happening to ordinary people.

That’s the crux of Fred Venturini’s “The Heart Does Not Grow Back”. It’s the story of a regular guy with regular ambitions who instead finds remarkable circumstances thrust upon him. It’s an illustration of one life’s mundane nature being turned inside-out, leaving the liver of that life to stumble his way through a unique and utterly remarkable situation.

Dale Sampson is
Stephen Gallup
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Initially, I picked up this novel because the premise sounded original. A couple chapters in, I felt thrilled with it, because the depictions of youthful relationships (on the playground and then among teenagers) are so deliciously rendered.

True, the startling consideration and even loyalty shown to Dale by the untouchably ultra-cool guy, Mack, might not be entirely plausible. I was enjoying the story too much to fret about that.

Then the subject matter becomes much less pleasant as the story vee
Shannon Lee
Dec 31, 2014 rated it liked it
I found this book compulsively readable, yet supremely disappointing. Fred Venturini has a great author's voice; I enjoyed letting his writing style roll around in my brain, the words like poetry at times. But that wasn't enough to save this for me. The main character, Dale, clearly suffering from first world problems in addition to his regeneration gift, never can quite pinpoint or deal with the fact that he's struggling with profound depression and it's ability to choke out the possibility of ...more
Nov 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I first came across Fred Venturini’s writing in the Burnt Tongues anthology. He had a great story in it, and I wondered what a full-length novel from him would be like. As it turned out, his debut had come out in 2011. Originally published as The Samaritan through small press publisher Blank Slate Press, Venturini’s The Heart Does Not Grow Back is getting the chance, through Picador, to reach a wider audience. While it won’t appeal to everyone, its hard-nosed approach to the fantastic does a goo ...more
Carrie Ardoin
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I can't really say this book is ABOUT any one specific thing. The best way to describe it is that it chronicles the life of main character Dale Sampson from childhood to early adulthood. In middle school, he meets the guy who is to become his best friend and shape his life in unimaginable ways, Mack. Mack is a popular ladies man while Dale is the polar opposite, awkward and quiet. Mack is persuasive, especially so on his friend, and so he drives Dale to make a decision one night that changes eve ...more
Kelly Houser
To be quite honest, I went into this book expecting not to like it. I read several reviews of this book and the more I contemplated the novel, the more I suspected it was not for me. I was wrong. I really enjoyed this book.

Venturini’s writing style was brutal in its honesty. His depictions of scenes were raw. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book before that made me flinch. This author has definite talent. He evoked many different responses from me while I was reading this book.

A part of me re
Jeremy Bonnette
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I found this book on the library shelf by chance and thought, "Hmm, this looks interesting. I'll give it a shot." Never did I imagine that I would enjoy it so much. Within the first five pages, I knew I was going to devour this book. I just had that feeling that I occasionally get when a book just fits right.

I moved from page to page quickly, not wanting to put the book down. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. There were some good surprises and some rather stunning moments througho
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
On the heels of another 5 star book, I stumble upon another great novel! This book is about Dale, who starts off in high school and has trouble fitting in. He has a crush on a twin, but the other twin seems more interested. His best and only friend is Mac, a jock who befriends Dale after he is picked on. Then an incident occurs in which Dale realizes he has the power to regenerate any body parts that are removed. This includes internal organs as well. The book was just well written and definitel ...more
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how else to describe this book besides calling it "absolutely amazing". I could not put this book down! It had me hooked from beginning to end. And although Dale Sampson was a jerk of a protagonist at certain points, the fact that he wasn't always the nice guy all of the time actually made me like him more. He was like a real person, instead of a glorified hero, in spite of his "gift". This has definitely become a new favorite book for me.
Drea Kreth
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When I heard the author preview the book at another author's book event I thought the book would be entertaining. I was wrong about it just being entertaining... This book is fantastic! It made me laugh, it made me cry, mostly it made me think about the relationships in my life. Worth every minute I spent reading it.
Samantha Isasi
the heart does not grow back

I had a moment of worry that this book would take the easy, cheesy way out. I am so glad it didn't. It explores the ideas of love and friendship and recovery and hurt and what these things really are and what they mean. It is pretty intensely fantastic.
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. Can't recommend it more. Just read it.
Everything about the writing just sucks you in; my eventual need for sleep is the only thing that kept me from reading in one sitting. Can't wait for more from Venturini.
Brandon Tietz
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First thing you need to know about your reviewer: he’s a comic book junkie…so when I heard about Mr. Venturini’s debut, The Samaritan, and how the lead protagonist has the ability to regenerate his limbs and organs, here I am thinking we’re about to get a teenage Wolverine meets The Breakfast Club with a dash of E! reality show. What I got instead was something different, something I didn’t expect based on the back cover and my own desperate wishes to see comic lore be brought into mainstream no ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't bring myself to hate on Dale. Even with all the organs and body parts chopped off and regenerated, he remains broken in many different places. He was depressed. He was obsessed. He was consumed by some empty longing.

I gotta hand it to his best friend, Mack who stuck out for him, though. Dale had this great friend who was willing to go through extreme measures just to look out for him.

"Now, that's a bestfriend." - Dale

I almost ended up not finishing this book and I'm glad I stuck with
Andrea Patrick
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reads like Chuck Palahniuk. But I don't read him anymore, because it was all adolescent-boy stories. This books is pretty depressing. Not very much goes right for the characters. No startling, fresh insights; no reminder that the world is a wonderful place. Just people doing stupid things and never getting past them. That's not all I need for a book, of course, but it was what I was hoping for today. Pass!
Andrew Miller
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is tough to rate. If it ended on page 71 it would have been a perfect story. This is before the gimmick of the book, the narrator's healing ability is revealed. After that come some fairly cringeworthy parts. Ultimately it is worth the read for its strengths even if you end up giving it a less than favorable review overall.
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Fred Venturini has eleven scars from eleven separate incidents, the most interesting of which is the time he was set on fire. For the others, just ask. His short fiction has been featured in the Booked. Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Chuck Palahniuk's BURNT TONGUES anthology. He is the acclaimed author of THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK and the forthcoming THE ESCAPE OF LIGHT (Turner, 2019). On th ...more
“To age is to embrace a slow hurt inside and out, to collect scars like rings on a tree, dark and withered and sometimes only visible if someone cuts deep enough. Scars keep the past 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.” 4 likes
“Simple really," I said. "The heart does not grow back.” 1 likes
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