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The World Played Chess

Bestselling author Robert Dugoni returns with an emotionally arresting follow-up to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.


In 1979, Vincent Bianco has just graduated high school. His only desire: collect a little beer money and enjoy his final summer before college. So he lands a job as a laborer on a construction crew. Working alongside two Vietnam vets, one suffering from PTSD, Vincent gets the education of a lifetime. Now forty years later, with his own son leaving for college, the lessons of that summer-Vincent's last taste of innocence and first taste of real life-dramatically unfold in a novel about breaking away, shaping a life, and seeking one's own destiny.

​​Published by Lake Union Publishing

Publish Date: September 14, 2021


"With his usual narrative mastery, Dugoni takes on the often-overlooked ordeal of boys becoming men and does so fearlessly and sensitively, chronicling the coming-of-age stories of three different men linked by war, friendship, and family. I loved it."
Mark Sullivan, bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky and The Last Green Valley


Praise for The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell


"This is the bestselling Dugoni's masterpiece, the book by which his work, and that of others, will be measured for years to come."
—Providence Journal


“Dugoni has produced a novel that, if it doesn't cross entirely over into John Irving territory, certainly nestles in close to the border...Written in a gentle, introspective yet dramatic style that is very different from that of Dugoni's crime fiction, this is an inspirational story of a man who spends a lifetime getting to know himself.” —Booklist


“Inspiring and aglow with the promise of redemption.”
—Kirkus Reviews


“Robert Dugoni has a rare and brilliant talent for infusing his characters with complex emotions. Frankly, this might be the best book of the year.”


“Distinctly different in style from Dugoni's typical fare...A captivating and poignant journey of strength and the power of finding your true self. Without a doubt, this is Dugoni's best yet.”
—Suspense Magazine


“Dugoni's writing is compellingly quick, simple, and evocative...A heartwarming novel that celebrates overcoming the unfairness of life.”
—Seattle Book Review

Book Club Questions for The World Played Chess

  1. Have you ever realized you have never really walked in someone else’s shoes—similar to Vincent and the jungle boots? How do William’s stories on the construction site affect Vincent’s worldview as a young man?

  2. Did you or anyone you know serve in Vietnam? What do you know about the war and America’s reception of the soldiers who returned home?

  3. Vincent pulls his son out of an important football game to protect him. How does his relationship with William and reading his journal influence that decision? When Beau ultimately gives up the sport, do you agree with his decision and reasoning?

  4. When William experiences death, losing Haybale so early in his combat experience, how do you think that affects his psyche? Is that a defining moment or is he torn down gradually?

  5. Why does William fight to bring honor to Haybale’s kill?

  6. How does William’s photography shape the way he sees the war?

  7. When Vincent compares his inability to throw out his plaques, awards, and degrees to William throwing away his medals, what is Vincent afraid of losing?

  8. Vincent’s first sexual experience is based on an innocent lie. Do you think he regrets this? Why? How does this compare to William’s experience?

  9. Can William’s loss of friends in combat be compared to Beau’s tragic loss of his friend Chris? Why or why not?

  10. Do you agree with the lesson William perceives he teaches the reckless BMW driver? Or is this another manifestation of PTSD?

  11. When Vincent backs down from the fight on the road with the young man from the convenience store, what do you think informs his decision?

  12. Loss of faith is a theme in the novel. How does William reclaim his faith in goodness, humanity, and himself? What about Beau? Vincent?

  13. How does William reconcile himself with the horrors of what he has seen and done? With the loss of Cruz?

Book Club Questions
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