Look, it’s not just for the link bait. I really do like Nicholas Sparks, as I’ve written about here, here, and here. It’s a thing, okay? And I’d like to take a cue from my new-found blog idol and say that I unironically enjoy his books.
I recently finished reading his latest endeavor, The Longest Ride. (I’ll give you a hint: LIFE is the longest ride.) I was good and I checked it out from the library rather than buying it (although the Kindle price dropped dramatically after it had been out for only like a month). Parenthetical: I discovered that the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System actually has a pretty kick-ass iPhone app, and I put a hold on the book from my PHONE. While I was in ALABAMA. So that was cool.
When I say “I finished reading it,” what I really mean is that I picked it up from the library on a Friday evening after work and that I closed it, completed, the following night before it was even past my bedtime. In other words, I devoured it as I devoured his other books. This one was more heartwarming than some; several have books have had twists that just hit you like a sucker punch and almost make you angry, whereas, while this one did have a twist, it was of a sweet nature.
But I got to thinking, “Why do I like these darn books so much?” I mean, this one, from what I gathered in reading the introductory material (yes, I always do that), got a simultaneous-to-its-release-as-a-book movie deal. Sparks is a machine. His books are a conglomerate. And yet I don’t care, because of the following:
I really strongly value having roots, and even wrote an essay in some class in 9th grade about my sense of place in Mississippi. And so, since that’s important to me personally, I respond to it in literature. (Ahem. Literature.) According to Wikipedia, Sparks lived all over the place as a child before settling in New Bern, NC with his wife in 1989. So they’ve now lived there for quite some time, and most of his books are set in and around that area. I wonder if his transience as a child made him value that rootedness even more as an adult. There’s almost always some character in each of his books who’s lived in the same house for generations and knows everything and everyone, and there’s usually an outsider/newcomer who falls in love with the place just the same. It’s like the setting is a character unto itself, and I appreciate that.
None of them seems to fit into a mold. Sparks doesn’t fall prey to tropes in his characters, believe it or not. Even if someone seems like the good little Southern housewife on the surface, we as readers become privy to some detail that sets her apart. And the richness of the characters makes the plot twists and turns all the more interesting, because you really find yourself invested in them.
Okay, so maybe I do have trouble buying into the guy and the girl who fall in love over the span of like 12 hours. But as the plot progresses and you’ve accepted the couple for what they are, they do life together in a way that’s pretty refreshing. They cook dinner, they eat with each other’s moms, they text, they have doctor’s appointments, they go to school. And then they have amazing sex in an abandoned house in front of a crackling fire, and watch wild horses gallop down the beach, and write amazingly poetic letters, and die together because they can’t live alone. So you relate to them, and then you swoon with them, and then the end comes and you cry and it’s cathartic and you realize the world needs Nicholas Sparks.
I know many of you won’t agree with me, but if I’ve learned anything from blogging it’s that the most interesting posts are the ones where someone takes a stand. And while it’s a petty thing to take a stand on, I’ll take mine for today on Nicholas Sparks.
What’s your favorite sappy novel?