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Safe Haven

by Nicholas Sparks

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)

By

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
© Grand Central Publishing
Grand Central Publishing, September 2010

Nicholas Sparks is a brand as surely as Kellogg, Chevrolet, or Apple. As surely as you know those cornflakes/car/computer will be of a certain quality, the reader knows that Sparks will deliver a competent, predictable story. Geared toward a female audience (That's not a sexist statement; just go to one of his readings and note the percentage of women readers.), the story will feature certain elements. A "lost" boy/man and girl/woman will meet by chance in a beautiful setting on the North Carolina coast. Love will blossom and eventually be requited after a number of diversions along the path to true love.

Those elements remain in Safe Haven; however, there is a darker, more menacing element present, one that goes beyond the normal vicissitudes of life. This element makes for a pretty good read, one that is less saccharine, more peppery than Sparks' usual fare. We know that Kevin is the bad guy as soon as we meet him, and his descent into madness is as predictable as the tides.
Safe Haven is set in Southport, a small town near Cape Fear, south of Wilmington, NC. Now a thriving tourist center with excellent restaurants and antique shops and the gateway to Baldhead Island, it retains its small town feel. Long a haven, it briefly harbored this reviewer's immigrant family in the late 18th Century. So, it is no surprise when Katie, a mysterious stranger with an unknown past, arrives and gets a job as a waitress at a local seafood restaurant. It is her past, which "prowled the world searching for her" that provides the enduring conflict. Sparks draws on the clash between locals versus outsiders to create one level of conflict as Katie is unwilling to share her background. As Sparks knows well, and uses to good advantage, it is important to know who one's "people" are for this gives one a place in the greater society.

Needing food, Katie shops at the local grocery store owned and operated by Alex Wheatley. He is raising two young children after his wife's untimely death. A retired Army major who worked in criminal investigations, he has uncommon insight into Katie. Of course, events conspire to bring them together and lead them toward love. But, the course of true love never did run smooth in a Sparks novel, and obstacles must be overcome. Helping in that process is the character of Jo, a grief counselor who moves in next to Katie. But, is Jo, who appears to know a great deal about Alex and his family, who she seems to be?
Sparks has woven a more complex, more gothic tale than usual. Sure to please his legion of fans (50 million copies of his books are in print in 40 languages), this novel and the ensuing movie are sure to bring new fans into his fold. With nine number one NY Times bestsellers and six popular movies, Sparks and his family continue to live in Eastern North Carolina. A former outsider, he has become an integral part of his community.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

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 3 out of 5
Great Beggining and Middle, then dissapointing, Member heena27

This was the first Sparks book I've read. I'm 27 and married and related to the main character Katie in some ways. Her story of starting over and meeting someone new was exciting and well written. Her husband Kevin's character and point of view was also very honest and almost humorous because of his hypocritical mentality. He was a walking contradiction of his own thoughts. But still interesting to see his point of view of his marriage and ""defense"" of his abuse. And then came the moment readers were waiting for. He finally tracked down his runaway wife. Throughout the book, he was a drunken loser, yes, BUT, he was a detective and a control freak and a master manipulator. However, as soon as he finds his wife and I'm waiting for this final confrontation and what is he going to say to her and what is she going to say to him and what will Alex, his wife's new love say to him. Will he get his revenge on the man who abused his love? Will Kevin tell his wife he missed her and loved her but wanted to beat her to death and confess his insane idea of love to her? Will Katie/Erin tell her husband she had, had enough of him and would never go back to him? INSTEAD Kevin, who was smart and miraculously sober enough to drive from Boston to North Carolina, could barely stand and made no sense. Seriously? Like was this really the point of the book we the readers were waiting for? And when it finally happens, the guy is too drunk to even say two words that make sense to his wife who he's been crying over for months? That was it?? And then he hits Alex with a crowbar before he can even look him in the eyes and say a word. Ummmm where is the undying love shining through telling Kevin that his wife is now his Katie and he would never let him put a finger on her. Or atleast tell him he loved her, something, anything? Where was Kevin telling his wife that he was a wreck without her and accusing her of being an adulterer? When Erin made her weak confrontation of ""why did you hit me, I loved you"", Kevin was too drunk to even comment or understand what she was saying to him. I have never been so annoyed reading anything, and I am not a picky reader. I love Twilight and can read about Bella mumbling all day long. But this? This confrontation should have been the most exciting part of the book. Instead he tries to just put his wife on fire and doesnt even care to say a word to her because he's too busying vomitting on the side of the road and thinking his jumbled thoughts. Sparks, seriously, could you not have let the man wake up from his nap, come up with a real plan and think of all the things he wanted to say to his runaway wife and actually SAY them. And then let him, uhh maybe lay off a bottle of Vodka long enough to not slur his speech and throw up while hes trying to murder his wife. And the whole thing about Jo being a ghost of the past in the end did not make up for this dissapointing ""confrontation"". Hopefully they will change things in the movie version.

29 out of 62 people found this helpful.

Mark Flanagan

Mark Flanagan
About.com Contemporary Literature

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