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At First Sight

by Nicholas Sparks

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (4 Reviews)

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At First Sight
My high school English teacher used to give us two grades on each paper we wrote. One grade was for the ideas we presented; the other was for our grasp of grammatical niceties. At First Sight needs two grades. The first, 2.5 stars, is for its literary merit and its position on the continuum of Literary quality. The second, 4.0, is probably the more important, however, for it grades the novel's appeal to Sparks' legion of fans who dote on his every novel. Groans greeted his announcement at a recent appearance that he did not have to provide a new manuscript to his publisher until January, 2007.

At First Sight is part 2 of his previous book, True Believer, which introduced readers to Lexie Darnell of Boone Creek, NC and Jeremy Marsh of New York City. Of course, they fell in love. True Believer had an epilogue of 45 pages, which the editor said was too long and detracted from the linearity of the book. So, Sparks wrote a new book which extended and completed his original concept of the story.
Five years later Jeremy is living in Boone Creek and is the narrator who tells us what has happened over the previous five years with all their sorrow and joy. Like much of Elizabethan drama, the novel is over the top and melodramatic. Typical of that era, no matter how monstrous the tragedy, a brief, positive upswing comes about at the very end. At First Sight does not rely on use of sophisticated language and metaphor; nevertheless, to carry the Elizabethan drama metaphor a bit further, it does appeal to the groundlings.

"Skeptical by nature" Jeremy is a freelance writer who exposes "Frauds, hoaxes, and forgeries." He came originally to North Carolina to investigate mysterious lights in a graveyard. He has no idea how these lights will frame the story he tells us. And, these lights will come poignantly into play again. Whether it is the Brown Mountain Lights in Western North Carolina or the Maco Light in the swamps of Southeastern NC (Joe Baldwin has still not found his head in 150 years of looking.), this state is fertile ground for the unexplained. Yet, Jeremy, the ultimate skeptic, is about to leave the city he loves and move to a small town to marry a woman he hardly knows, as his best friend repeatedly points out to him.
Sparks captures the inevitable tension quite well. It is this tension of not knowing who Lexie is which drives the story. Is she what she seems to be "at first sight" or not? As his knowledge of Lexie unfolds, the inevitable doubts must arise, and they do - in spades. A strange email comes from a hidden source; then another email comes, and the tension escalates. Jeremy encounters a severe case of writer's block, and that creates more drama.

The story is certainly not Literature, but it is a story which fits its niche, which has been true of Sparks' work since his first novel, At First Sight. No one will argue that it is a work of great literary merit, but it is a well-told story which subtly latches onto one's emotions. And, it fits what his audience is looking for. Judging by the hundreds of devotees who turned out for a recent book event in Cary, North Carolina, that audience is 95% female and predominantly white with a smattering of Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics. They encompass all ages.
At First Sight is a cliché in many ways. There is love at first sight. It provides one answer to the question of how we meet and cope with joy and tragedy. It moves along on the theme that what does not kill us makes us stronger. Life happens, and when it does, each of us needs a support system to bolster us and help us meet its vicissitudes head on and triumph in the face of disaster. Cliché or not, people are clamoring to read this novel, and should that not be the ultimate measure of popular contemporary literature?

Sparks is a writer who knows his audience and caters to them in a positive manner. Dressed in jeans, a polo shirt, and black weejuns, this Minnesota-born Californian fits right in with his audience and the people of his new hometown of New Bern, NC. A former track star at Notre Dame, he has donated $700,000 to the local high school and built a top of the line track, where he volunteers his time as an assistant coach. Just recently, he helped bring Karjuan Williams, the best high school 800 meter runner in the country, and his family to New Bern. They had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He genuinely feels for people.
User Reviews

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 5 out of 5
At firtst sight, Member Katelin2012

i love this book and i love Nicholas sparks his movies are good and so are his books

1 out of 1 people found this helpful.

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