Author: Nicholas Sparks
Published: September 14th 2010, Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Romance, Drama
Age group: Adult
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Love hurts. There is nothing as painful as heartbreak. But in order to learn to love again, you must learn to trust again.
When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.
But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.
Nicholas Sparks is specifically known as the author of solely romantic stories. And while there’s nothing special or particularly new about them, nothing that hasn’t been already written about before, for some reason almost every other book of his has been filmed.
My knowledge of Sparks’s works is based on two of his most popular books – ‘The Notebook’, of course, and ‘A Walk To Remember’. I found this books quite OK, not really amazing, but nice and touching stories, and their movie versions were very romantic. I wouldn’t probably have read anything else by him in the near future, if I wasn’t sort of enchanted by the movie trailer for ‘Safe Haven‘. I can’t even explain why, as it’s quite a familiar type of story, which by the way immediately reminded me of the movie ‘Enough’ with Jennifer Lopez. But it was included in my Movies-To-Watch-This-Year List right away. Maybe it had a lot to do with Josh Duhamel in the main role 🙂
The book starts with a young woman Katie being unhappy in her marriage, no matter what she does, there’s always something to piss her husband off. Katie is used to being constantly hit by him, and with him being a policeman she doesn’t know where to ask for help. So the only possible escape for her is to run away. It actually turns out a very hard thing to do, and once Katie was already caught. But the second time she prepares very thoroughly, and though not without many complications, she manages to hide in a small town Southport, North Carolina.
Katie tries to keep low, so as not to get any attention from the citizens of the town. But soon there are two people who actually get close to her. First it’s her neighbor Jo, a woman in her thirties living alone. The two women quickly get close, and it’s Jo who Katie first tells about her past to. It’s also Jo who convinces Katie to open up her heart to Alex.
Alex is a widower with two kids, his wife died three years ago, and he hasn’t yet moved on from her. But meeting Katie and becoming friends with her makes him believe that he can be happy again. The two get closer as time passes, and Alex gets to know all about the nightmares Katie has once lived in.
While Alex is very optimistic about their future and wants to marry Katie one day, she is still cautious. Katie knows that there’s no way her husband would just let her go, he will eventually find her. And when he does, she will have to run again.
It’s really strange how my perception of this book got really twisted. The things that were supposed to be great and exciting and cute, like Katie and Alex’s romance, the way they find love and happiness in each other, didn’t really make any impression on me. The whole part of the romance was way boring and uninspiring. Sometimes it felt like a retelling of some book, only giving some basic information without spending too much time on emotional aspect. Besides, it was filled with so many unimportant stuff, like how Katie gets to settle down in her new home or her daily routine.
Alex was a really nice character, but I felt he was way undeveloped. It seemed like I only got a brief description of him, and even judging from the short trailer, I can definitely say that I love the movie Alex much better, he seemed more alive. And also the romance seems more passionate on screen, while in the book it’s rushed and plain.
But what I liked about the story is actually Nicholas Sparks’s portrayal of Katie’s husband Kevin. He is a real maniac, simply crazy, and I loved how realistic he felt in the book. I felt both scared and annoyed by him. He is a true psychopath, his inner monologues show how mentally unstable and aggressive he is. This is the character that I think Nicholas Sparks really nailed. In this case I don’t need to see a movie version to imagine him, and it’s sad that the bad character is so great, while the good ones, those at the forefront of the story, are so bland.
I struggled with the most part of the book, there weren’t many exciting scenes, but the ending was really intense. Once again, though, as I’m happy with the way things turned out, I’m also disappointed. First, I’m really skeptical about the way Kevin died, and secondly that twist with Jo was just strange. I know it was supposed to have some big sentimental effect on the reader, but I was like – ‘What???’.
In general, I’m more happy that I’ve read this book as a sort of basis for watching the movie later, but standing by itself this book is quite boring. It definitely wasn’t something I expected.