Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Ebook Details
  • 07/2020
  • B088QQ3W1J
  • 371 pages
  • $9.99
Sam Harris
The Substance of All Things
Sam Harris, author

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

When Theo Dalton is six years old, his hands are irreparably damaged in a horrific car accident that takes his mother’s life. Six years later, during the sweltering summer of 1968 in rural Oklahoma, Theo meets Frank, a Native American outcast, and learns that he has the ability to heal through his disfigured hands. As he explores the extraordinary, Theo desperately attempts to remain an ordinary boy. But when word of his gift spreads, Theo is shunned by the church for doing “the devil’s work.” He is immediately swept away by his Auntie Li, and into a world which ultimately threatens his life as he saves others’. Told from Theo’s perspective some fifty years later, it is through his work as a therapist with a broken woman that he musters the courage to relive the summer that haunts him. The Substance of All Things is the gripping, heart-wrenching, and often humorous tale of mentors and mothers and fathers, love and redemption, prophets and charlatans, miracles and faith.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


Plot: This is an exquisitely-threaded, gripping, and satisfying coming-of-age novel, full of family, friendship, churches, charlatans, mentors, and mystical abilities. Readers will be engaged and enthralled from the first page until the last.

Prose/Style: The prose here is sophisticated, clear, and wholly memorable, and serves to enhance the exceptional narrative that the author has crafted.

Originality: The premise behind this wonderful novel is unique, effective, and entirely fresh.

Character/Execution: The characters are quite amazingly drawn, especially Theo and Frank. Theo, the sensitive young healer, is reminiscent of some of John Irving's young characters.

Date Submitted: July 07, 2020

Faith in religion, family, and oneself is tested in this mesmerizing novel by Harris (Ham: Slices of a Life). In 1962 Oklahoma, six-year-old Theodore Dalton loses his mother in the car accident that leaves his hands damaged. Six years later, Theo’s summer is spent playing with his now six-year-old sister, Lily; navigating life with their father, who is still scarred physically and emotionally from the accident; and being dragged to church by his devout Aunty Li. Frank, a Vietnam War veteran shunned by the town, befriends Theo and helps him realize and use the healing powers of his injured hands. After Theo’s “gift” is rejected by his church as sorcery, his healing hands are exploited by self-serving individuals, testing Theo’s faith in himself and his family. Adult Theo, now a therapist in California, narrates this story, using his sessions with a new patient as a vehicle for exploring and coming to terms with the trauma and revelations of that summer.

Each of Harris’s characters is naturally and fully developed, making for authentic, engrossing characters that enrich the story. Young Theo is incredibly sympathetic, a sweet and innocent boy who deserves none of his trials. Equally heartrending is the powerful story that unfolds in adult Theo’s therapy sessions with a 42-year-old woman coming to terms with her own shocking childhood. Her journey seamlessly interweaves with Theo’s examination of his Southern heritage and the life-changing events of his childhood.

Harris’s descriptions, such as those of the congregations at the Calvary Baptist Church and God’s Hand Ministry, are strikingly evocative. His vivid narrative effectively captures the essence of the 1960s in a rural town, with themes of social and political prejudices and mores around race, religion, and politics that are intensely pertinent today. This heartbreaking, heartwarming story will win over any fan of the literature of the American South.

Takeaway: Poignant and devastatingly evocative, this story about faith, frauds, fear, and finding peace will especially appeal to fans of heartbreaking and heartwarming 20th-century Americana.

Great for fans of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Harris’s stunning debut novel (after the memoir Ham: Slices of Life) follows an ostracized adolescent who has supernatural healing power and grapples with grief. In 1968 rural Oklahoma, 12-year-old Theo Dalton is bullied for not having full use of his hands after a car accident when he was six, which killed his mother and left his father disabled. Frank Kotori, a Native American veteran who is also taunted by Theo’s bullies, rescues Theo from being pelted by rocks and invites him to his trailer. Frank makes Theo mindful of his healing abilities when Theo miraculously heals a man with a cut arm, and Theo tentatively begins to heal others until word spreads and the town minister accuses Theo of demonic possession. Then Theo’s aunt Lorelei carts him off to join a charlatan healer’s tent revival show, and though Theo’s healings become popular, his growing discomfort at being exploited threatens the whole endeavor. Harris intersperses powerful, aching scenes of Theo decades later as he works as a therapist and no longer uses his powers, which culminate in a session with a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, whom he longs to heal the way he once healed others. This deeply felt, finely tuned story will move readers. (Self-published)
Indie Reader

5 out of 5 stars – A must read. "A fine debut novel...touching...healing...a powerful story." - Indie Reader


“Harris’ new novel tells the remarkable life story of a modern-day miracle worker. He expertly and adroitly plays each plotline against the other to create a gripping sense of narrative momentum. The slow, controlled portrayal of adult Theo’s progress toward personal redemption is commanding…and culminates in a series of chapters with hefty emotional impact. THE SUBSTANCE OF ALL THINGS is a dramatic and cumulatively powerful tale of one man’s healing.” (Kirkus)

Ebook Details
  • 07/2020
  • B088QQ3W1J
  • 371 pages
  • $9.99