If you’ve ever read a Nicholas Sparks book you’re familiar with the setup: first, grab a box of Kleenex, then find a quiet place where you can curl up for the day (and probably into the night) with no interruption and get lost in the romance that pours from the pages of Sparks’ stories.
For most people, it all started with The Notebook, a tale of life’s loves and tragedies, and highly regarded as one of the best love stories of the past few decades. If you didn’t read the book you surely heard about the movie (2004), which starred Gena Rowlands and James Garner. The story takes place in a nursing home where Duke (Garner) begins to read a love story from his notebook to a female patient (Gena Rowlands).
Set in South Carolina in the 1940s, local country boy Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) falls in love with 17-year-old heiress Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams). At first resisting his advances, she eventually surrenders to his affection and the two embark on a love affair that’s banned by her parents and misguided by their friends.
Allie is sent to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College and Noah, devastated by his separation from Allie, writes her one letter a day for a year. The only problem: she never gets the letters thanks to Allie’s mother, who is keeping them from her. Eventually, Allie becomes a nurse for wounded soldiers and meets her soon-to-be-husband Lon Hammond, Jr. (James Marsden), a wealthy and well-connected young lawyer. Despite her longing for Noah, Allie agrees to marry Lon (but this is a Nicholas Sparks novel… it’s far from over).
Noah returns home from the war, fixes up The Windsor Plantation he promised to Allie, and goes off in search of his love. The two reconnect for what turns into a passionate day-into-the-night escapade… (if you want more, you’ll have to read the rest of the book).
What we do know is that the elderly woman in the nursing home is Allie, who is suffering from dementia, and Duke is her husband. Allie does not recognize their grown children and grandchildren, who beg Duke to come home with them. He insists on staying with Allie.
I won’t give away the rest of the story, but I promise you it’s a tale you can’t put down.
Sparks wrote The Notebook over a six-month period and sold the rights to Warner Books for $1,000,000. But just like his stories, life took a dramatic turn. Despite the excitement over his first big sell, Sparks’ family life was decaying. His sister was sick with brain cancer, and his father was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 54. While “The Notebook” gained a following, Sparks continued working as a salesman in the pharmaceutical industry, unsure he could churn out another best-seller. Then came Message in a Bottle and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sparks’ stories continue to resonate with readers. His series includes:
True Believer: Jeremy Marsh is a science journalist who’s just scored a major coup by debunking a popular television psychic. His next assignment–investigating the ghostly lights appearing in a small-town cemetery in North Carolina.
Nights in Rodanthe: Abandoned by her husband for a younger woman, Adrienne flees to a country inn run by a friend, where she meets a doctor who is grieving after a botched operation during which the patient died.
The Wedding: This sequel to The Notebook takes up the story a generation later, with the 30-year marriage of Jane and Wilson Lewis. Now middle-aged, Wilson fears that his long and happy marriage is on the rocks, and he sets out to win his wife back.
The Guardian: Nicholas Sparks’s first suspense novel features Julie Barenson, a young widow who finds comfort after her husband’s death in the Great Dane who has become her favorite companion–a legacy from her late husband
At First Sight: Suspicion threatens the happiness of a newly married couple awaiting the birth of their first child.
The Rescue: When single mom Denise Holton moves to Edenton, North Carolina, all she’s looking for is a quiet town in which to raise her son But when a handsome contractor named Taylor McAden
A Walk to Remember: An aging man who recalls a high school romance that saved him from himself.
A Bend in the Road: Miles Ryan and Sarah Andrews have both been hurt by past relationships, so they kindle a romance after meeting at a school function, but there’s a sinister connection between the two.
Three Weeks With My Brother: When the Sparks brothers set off on a trip around the world, they saw it as an opportunity not only to see temples and ruins but to talk about their childhood and the fate of their family.
The Lucky One: Logan Thibault, a U.S. Marine, discovers a photograph of a young smiling woman while on a tour of duty in Iraq and comes to view the photograph as a lucky charm.
The Choice: Travis Parker was happily enjoying his bachelor’s life until it was disrupted by his new next-door neighbor, Gabby Holland.
Dear John: While on leave from the army, John Tyree meets Savannah, the love of his life. Despite their many differences–he has a history of drinking, trouble-making, and promiscuity while she is a chaste teetotaler–their love flourishes over the summer.