In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have decided to write on that master manipulator of emotions, “the world’s most beloved chronicler of the heart” (seriously, that’s what the book jacket said), the man who has women everywhere reaching for the tissue box, Mr. Nicholas Sparks. Or more specifically, his books.
I was looking for something to read one day, and came across Nicholas Sparks’ “At First Sight” in our bookcase (interesting side note: I wasn’t the one who bought it). So I read the summary on the back, the prologue and the first chapter. Because I’m one of those people who get impatient and need to know the ending of books immediately (this approach doesn’t ruin the book for me as I still enjoy reading how the book ends up at that conclusion), I read the last chapter and the epilogue.
And reader, I still cried.
I was amazed that reading such small amounts of Sparks’ book could still wring such an emotional response out of me. Was he truly that masterful of an emotional manipulator?
I decided to test my theory out. I went to Barnes and Nobles and set myself these parameters: I could only read the book jacket blurb, the prologue, the first chapter, the last chapter and the epilogue. My goal was to see if a.) The story could still be understood b.) If it did tug at my heartstrings.
SPOILER ALERT: The endings of these books will be revealed.
The first book I pullled off the shelf was “The Best of Me.” Two lovers are separated for a long time. Finally meet up again, but she’s married and the guy dies. However, his heart goes to her son. I got all this just from reading all the aforementioned, so I think I was able to get the gist of the story. And yes, I did feel some tugging at the heartstrings.
“A Bend in the Road.”
Guy’s wife died in a hit-and-run. He starts dating his young son’s teacher but she or her brother (?) was the driver that hit his wife. He and the teacher eventually get together. I felt like I missed a lot by reading the book this way. There were obviously some symbolism that I didn’t understand (what’s with the candles in the window?). I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to this one.
Man meets and falls in love with his neighbor. They have two girls. Have struggling marriage. She has some sort of accident and falls into a coma. He has to decide whether to pull the plug or not on her. He decides not to, puts her in a home and one day she wakes up. Yay! Also, a pigeon is some sort of symbol of good news.The gist of the story is understood, but it seemed interesting enough that I actually wanted to read the entire thing.
This book is a sort of sequel to Sparks “The Notebook.” Noah is more a side character, and the main characters are Noah’s daughter and her husband. They have a struggling marriage because he’s not romantic and emotionally aloof. At the end, he throws an elaborate secret wedding for his wife. Also, Noah talks to a swan that may or may not be his dead wife. I’m glad I read my abridged version of this book, because it was hard to get through even that. Not one of the better books in my opinion.
So is it possible to read a Nicholas Sparks novel in 15 minutes, still get the gist of the story and be emotionally moved? I would say it’s possible. But I would recommend reading the entire book anyway. Yes, the story lines of his books on the surface seem formulaic, with the two lovers somehow separated and/or one dies, and a “surprise” ending, but somehow he keeps it engrossing enough. It’s non-depressing, easy-to-read entertainment for an hour or two. And really, is anyone reading Nicholas Sparks looking for an answer to world peace? (If so, please see a therapist immediately.) Besides, if you get bored halfway through, you can always skip to the last chapter and epilogue.
To my own valentine: Our story can’t be condensed to fit a book, let alone a blog post, and I pray it knows no end. I love you so much, baby!
Jammie Karlman is the entertainment editor for the Chico Enterprise-Record. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JammieKarlman