What do you do when your mother shows up foisting a book on you, then giving you a deadline? Well, if you’re me, you shrug and read the book.
I’ll backtrack a little here. Nicholas Sparks isn’t my usual literary jam (if he’s yours, that’s cool! Just not mine). When I was 21 and married to my first husband, that summer, he went out to sea with the Navy and I came home, which was when I read my mother’s copy of The Notebook (side note: not the best novel to read when the man you love is deployed with the military). Since that time, I’ve divorced, remarried, given birth to two children, moved more times than I can count and undergone ridiculously huge life changes, but apparently in my dear mother’s mind, bless her, my reading tastes have not changed. She came over a few weeks ago after over a month’s absence due to weather and illness, bearing loads of gifts which included this book. “Here!” she said, handing me Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks. “You read this, and when you’re done, I’ll give it to Auntie. She wants to read it next.”
Well then. Apparently I had homework. I added it to my current pile of books and finally made my way through it on Friday. And I can’t say I enjoyed this all that much.
Tru Walls is a bush guide in his native Zimbabwe, helping tourists to have that safari experience they’ve always dreamed of. He lives a solitary life, visiting his son (who lives with his ex-wife) whenever he’s out of the bush, and keeping to himself the rest of the time. But things are about to change; Tru is on a journey to meet his biological father, a man with whom he’s never had any contact before now, but who, this being a Nicholas Sparks novel, is dying.
Hope Anderson is limping along through life. Her on-again, off-again boyfriend is currently off-again, this time with his buddies in Vegas; her dreams of having children seem less and less likely; her dad has been newly diagnosed with ALS; and to top off this cat-litter-sundae, she has to attend her best friend’s wedding alone this weekend, in a hideous bridesmaid dress, natch.
But fate steps in, nearly squishing Hope’s dog by a car in the process, and it’s insta-love for Tru and Hope. A love like theirs would never be replicated (an actual line from the book), despite the fact that they’ve only known each other for four days, which is totally why it’s no big deal that they have multiple instances of unprotected sex (don’t worry guys, he’s sterile. Seriously. From the measles. Because that was definitely the only thing to worry about in 1990 when this part of the story was set. F’real, you two. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts was published in 1987. Hope was a nurse!!!). And thus, after four life-changing days, Hope’s off-again boyfriend proposes. Tru begs her, but Hope wants to be pregnant more than she wants that love that can never be replicated, and Tru just can’t give her that. The two part, and what happens next is a true Sparksian tale of love lost and found again…but for how long?
(It IS Nicholas Sparks, remember. )
Oy. I tend to find Nicholas Sparks’s dialogue…a little stilted, I guess, at times. Unnatural. Tru and Hope were so smooshily, gloppily in insta-love that it weirded me out. They were talking marriage within a day or two, and everything was so over-the-top that I was actually laughing out loud while I was reading this. My mom and I had this brief conversation via text:
At least she agreed with me!
What I did enjoy were the small glances at the Zimbabwean bush, and the literary trip to the beaches of North Carolina. It’s obviously a place Sparks loves, as he writes about it with such reverence, and it’s always pleasant to travel to a place via the words of someone whose soul belongs there. I’m not much of a fan of what seems like Sparks’s sole plot device of striking his characters with terminal illnesses; in that case, for me, at least, he’s like the Lurlene McDaniel of adult romance, and I got enough of that during my tween and teen years, thankyouverymuch.
But Sparks is ridiculously popular (my mom adores him; all four copies of this book are currently checked out from my library), and I can understand why, even if this book wasn’t my jam. Beautiful description, a love story that sweeps both characters off their feet (although, can we get some condoms up in here next time???), catharsis in the heartbreak, recognizing yourself in a character’s poor choices, hope and renewal in finding each other again. There’s no shame in finding joy in any of that, for anyone.
And now my aunt will be able to read this! Mission accomplished.