03 August 2013

Safe Haven


Back cover copy: 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 her plainspoken neighbor, Jo; and another with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. Katie slowly begins to relax her guard, putting down roots in the 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 her. With Jo's 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.

First line: As Katie wound her way among the tables, a breeze from the Atlantic rippled through her hair.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2012; 382 pages (not counting reading guide and excerpt); purchased new.

My thoughts: So I've never been a particularly huge Sparks fan. I've always thought of him as a competent but not great writer, but a wonderful storyteller. And I went a little off him when he denied that he writes romance novels. On his own website, under the FAQ section, one question is “Why do you write love stories?” His answer:
I chose that genre because there was little to no competition.
Another question is “As a man, how do you feel about writing love stories?” He has a pretty long answer, but the interesting part says:
I enjoy the challenge this genre presents. It’s also interesting to note that in recent history, men tend to have written more successfully in this genre than women. (Women, on the other hand, dominate the romance novel genre.)
So apparently there is a difference between "love stories" and "romances". There's also a difference between "novels" and "literature", and Mr. Sparks' books are novels, but they are not literature. They are, however, in my opinion, romances.

Once you get past the author's arrogance and obvious disdain for romances, SAFE HAVEN is actually a good book. I enjoyed it much more than I anticipated I would. I loved the movie version, which is why I bought the book on impulse when I came across it while out shopping one day. I've read five of Mr. Sparks' books in the past, and thought I knew what to expect, but I do believe his writing has improved over the years.

SAFE HAVEN is a good character study. We are taken deep inside the minds of Katie and Alex, and later Kevin, Katie's abusive husband. We are privy to their thoughts, their emotions, their fears. For pages at a time nothing really happens, which doesn't bother me at all as I prefer books that are character driven over plot driven. If you don't know what the book is about, in a nutshell:

Katie takes up residence in a small town, where she keeps to herself as much as possible. Her neighbor, Jo, however, draws her out, and the two women become friends. Alex, the owner of the local store, is drawn to Katie, and over time they form a solid friendship. Katie avoids talking about herself or her past, but as she and Alex grow closer she begins to let him in on her secret.

There was just one passage that nagged at me and irritated me:
Then she got in the shower and wet her hair. She tilted the bottle and began massaging the dye into her hair. She stood at the mirror and sobbed uncontrollably while it set. When it was done, she climbed into the shower again and rinsed it out. She shampooed and conditioned and stood before the mirror. (p 201)
I've been coloring my own hair for over twenty years, and I have yet to buy a dye that you put on wet hair. Every box of dye I've bought says to put it on dry hair, and you wear plastic gloves to apply the dye to your hair. And you don't shampoo afterwards - you rinse thoroughly and then use the conditioner that came with the hair dye. Considering all the detailed descriptions of the character's day to day lives, a little research into how to dye hair would not have been amiss.
Regardless, SAFE HAVEN is a descriptive meandering read that will suck you in. If you haven't seen the movie, there's a nice plot twist that may surprise you. And if you have seen the movie and think you know how the story ends, be prepared to be thrown a little off course and on the edge of your seat as you turn those last few pages.

I'm pretty sure I've read A WALK TO REMEMBER, but apparently did not make any notes about it. But here's what I thought of the other Sparks books I've read:

         Medium                                        Medium

I enjoyed it, and I want to see the movie again now! I was a little surprised by the ending, I hadn't seen the movie in such a long time I didn't remember it ending the way it did! While Nicholas Sparks isn't a writer of the finest caliber, he does know how to create a good storyline. At one point though, I did think, imagine if Anita Shreve or Alice Hoffman had taken this plot and weaved a story around it! But all in all, it was a good, quick, read that definitely stirs the emotions. (March 2005)

I read this about a month ago and really enjoyed it. I've only read three of Sparks' books so far and they are all kind of sappy, but in a good way! Yes, it was a little predictable, and it wasn't too hard to figure out who the mystery narrator was, but overall a good read. (August 2006)

         Medium                                        Medium

Yep, a little sappy! But then, all of Sparks' books are! He's not the most literary writer out there, but he has a way with a story and his books are generally really enjoyable. Even so, I think this is my least favorite (so far)of his books. I liked the story itself and that part of the book went quickly, but that last chapter just seemed to be endless! (February 2007)

I enjoy Sparks' books, though I don't think of him as a great writer, just a great storyteller (not that I could do any better, mind you!). I never connected with the main characters in this one, and didn't really believe in their great love either, though I did believe it a little more on Jeremy's side than on Lexie's, if that makes any sense! I didn't really feel that any of the characters were very fleshed out. The ending was very pat and predictable. Frankly, I would have preferred that the mystery of the lights not be solved! Regardless, as I reached the end of the book, I was caught up in it, and it was still an enjoyable read. (August 2007)

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