1 February 2019

Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks



Welp, consider this my official retirement from Nicholas Sparks. Not that the book isn't great, they always are, but I just can't read this same story anymore in a new landscape. As my dad so cleverly said when I opened this at Christmas, "why are you reading that, I can tell you exactly what happens... a guy and a girl fall in love overnight but one of them is hiding something"... if my dad can so accurately summarize the plot to EVERY book Sparks has written (having read none of them) then I think it's time for me to move on...

I'm really happy this will be my last Sparks novel because it's partially set in beautiful Zimbabwe on safari, and my fiance and I are taking a belated honeymoon in December to South Africa. It's also one of his only stories I've read that he stumbled upon as opposed to creating from *mostly* scratch. In the foreward Sparks tells us how he 'found' this story in a mailbox called Kindred Spirit in North Carolina where strangers can leave letters to each other. He tracked down the author and asked him if he could adapt it into a full novel. I find this incredibly cool, and while Sparks claims a lot of his novels are based on true stories, it's interesting to read one that's almost entirely true, rather than 'loosely based'.

the man himself, Nicholas Sparks


The story is about a man named Tru who works as a safari guide in Zimbabwe. His long lost birth father is dying and flies him to North Carolina to meet him before he passes. While Tru is staying in a beach house for a week in NC, he meets a woman named Hope who is staying at her parents' cottage to attend a wedding for a friend. In true Nick Sparks fashion, Hope is the most beautiful woman Tru has ever seen and they fall in love in like ~2 hours. Obviously, there are issues since Tru is expected to go back to Zimbabwe, where he has a life and a young son. In addition, Hope is dealing with turbulence in an on-again, off-again relationship. It's all very dramatic.

When life with Josh was good, it felt like everything she wanted, forever. But when it wasn't good, she admitted, it was terrible. She suspected there might be something addictive about those dramatic ups and downs, but she had no way to know for sure. All she knew was that as unbearable as life with him sometimes felt, she couldn't quite imagine life without him either."

My fiance and I have been talking about going on safari to see the African animals basically since we first met, and I'm so excited we're heading to South Africa in December to finally live that dream out. It was very timely for me that Nick Sparks would set part of this book on safari in Zimbabwe, as he usually sets his stories in coastal American cities. This was the most thrilling part of this story for me because Sparks IS a very talented writer and he wrote such beautiful passages about the scenery, the camps, and how the animals move around. There's an amazing passage where he describes lions that have evolved to take down elephants (something extremely uncommon as elephants are usually King of the jungle). He is a very thorough author and always spends time in the location he's writing about, and this shone through in this book particularly.

Nature had its own insurance policy, he knew. Animals that were low on the food chain had more young; female zebras, for instance, were pregnant for all but nine or ten days a year. It was estimated that female lions, on the other hand, had to mate more than a thousand times for every cub that reached its first birthday. It was evolutionary balance at its finest, and though he witnessed it daily, it still struck him as extraordinary."

lions in Zimbabwe HOW COOL


Another 'theme' throughout this book if you will is ALS. Hope's dad is dying slowly from ALS when she first meets Tru, and it comes up again throughout the novel but I won't spoil it entirely for you. ALS has always seemed to me like one of the most cruel, helpless diseases. Many of our minds go straight to Stephen Hawking but even he was an anomaly in how well he fared throughout his illness, understanding that 'well' is a relative term. This novel was excellent in how it provided the perspective of the disease from a daughter's point of view, and the ripple effect it has on family, friends of family, romantic relationships, etc. I wouldn't say it's a major thread in this story, so don't read it expecting it to heavily discuss ALS, but I can see it being a mild comfort to someone who's had experience dealing with a family member's sickness, etc.

She understood that life wasn't easy for anyone, and she felt satisfied that she'd done the best she could."

Here is my beef with Nicholas Sparks: I could read his books literally for days on end and thoroughly enjoy myself, but I would be dumber having done so, and also have robbed myself of time I feel I could have spent reading more meaningful books. People don't fall in love the way he writes them to, relationships are more nuanced than he makes them seem. I feel, even my own limited experiences, that I've matured beyond falling for these cliched love stories. They're also written in such a formula that I can accurately predict the ending every time (and apparently so can my dad who's read none), and they don't even really affect me emotionally the way they used to, so what's the point? I can't seem to think of one so I've decided this will be my last one, and I feel comfortable with the decision. I have very fond memories of being cancel-all-my-plans-all-consumed while reading The Rescue and The Choice, but it's not like that for me anymore. I'm grateful I had this experience and thankful he had a new book for me each year.

If you're into chick-lit and you like a good romance novel, Every Breath will be a great choice for you. I know my mom and sister will love reading this and I'm excited to lend it to them, I'm happy I read it as well. It's an incredibly easy novel with a lot of beautiful imagery. If you like Nick Sparks I've written an entire author spotlight on him and he has a LOT to choose from.

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