By Soyeenka Mishra
Warning: this review will contain spoilers.
This is going to be short and sweet, like the book itself. The story is set in a small town, Edenton, in North Carolina where everyone lives like a small family (I’ve read a pretty decent amount of stories set in such an environment and they always have this warm feeling to them). Denise isn’t overly worried when she finds herself stuck in a storm; but it all hits the fan when she meets with an accident and comes around only to find that her four year old son is missing. Hours later when everyone is simply on the verge of giving up, Taylor McAden swoops in and tracks him down at last. As mother and son recover from the incident, they bond with the McAdens which blooms into something beautiful. But Taylor’s past won’t let them live in peace for long.
Let’s talk about the plot itself. It took me a little while to relate to the protagonists. I mean it wasn’t exactly hard, but my usual reading consists of fantastical teenagers with magical powers, not single mothers and firemen in their thirties. But their problems were realistic and, in turn, the plot was realistic as well. It almost didn’t feel like fiction. I loved how Sparks portrayed the development of Kyle, who has problems with understanding words and participating in speech. It brought tears to my eyes when he finally walked up to Denise and said, “I wuff you.” I fell in love with his way of talking, all of the sounds that he made when he tried to speak, and they were adorable together. Most of the time I find small children in books annoying (for good reason, or not), but Kyle was a good lad, I liked him.
To discuss Taylor and Denise’s relationship, well, it was a valid one? I mean, not that there have been many ‘invalid’ fictional relationships, but the way that Denise put so many thoughts before opening up to Taylor, the way she would always put Kyle before herself, the way she almost didn’t forgive Taylor for breaking Kyle’s heart, how she knew when to speak out– all of those things were what normal people would do in normal situations. Normal is pretty underrated, in my opinion. I’ve seen so many unusual choices made by characters in the past, so at this point anything realistic and normal feels relatively weird. I’m likely not explaining this properly, but that’s just how I felt.
And my heart goes out to Taylor: living with immense guilt since childhood, so much grief and trauma hidden away in his heart. It was very saddening to see how he never let himself be truly happy because of his past issues. I didn’t like that Mitch had to die to make Taylor realise how much he was holding himself back, but it had to be done (it reminds me of Rose in relation to Jack’s death in Titanic). It was hard witnessing just how drastically Melissa’s life had to change, especially due to the fact that Mitch was going to retire in a couple of months. Deaths like those always take me by surprise in novels, although I appreciate how they can serve as a point of foreshadowing for the events of other characters that haven’t yet unfolded.
Like most books by Nicholas Sparks, this book managed to somehow still carry peaceful vibes that encourage you to relax and enjoy the story. Once I got into it, it was like a breeze. Sure, there were ups and downs, the conflicts, the good parts, and all that jazz; but never did the pace seem hurried. That was the best part: there was no intrinsic need to devour the book in one sitting. No ‘I need to finish this book tonight or I’ll actually die’ feelings. And that’s not exactly a bad thing. I mean sure, some people wouldn’t want that from a book, but after reading large amounts of fantasy series’ that made me feel breathless by the speed I was going through them, this book was a very welcome respite from that.
This is the type of book that one would read while reclining on a chair in the patio facing the beach on a cool afternoon, sipping jus de fruit as a deliciously cool breeze kisses the back of their neck. You’ll feel this sense of calm after finishing it, and then you can have a quiet dinner while soft music plays in the background… or just get started on another book as soon you’ve had enough time to process this one– whatever floats your boat. Lastly but not the least, I’ll say I do recommend this book for the times when you want some light reading; something lazy and relaxing without feeling a sense of urgency, but definitely not if you’re craving some adrenaline.
The raw version of this review can be found here.