To get in the mood for vacation, I read this book on the drive to the Outer Banks. While we were not heading as far south as Rodanthe, North Carolina, it seemed fitting that this was the book to unwind with. To me, Nicholas Sparks is one great beach read. All his books are filled with a healthy dose of romance and emotion. They are a great way to exit everyday life and take a holiday.
Before we talk about the book, let's talk about the title. For all those who are wondering --- and you know you are --- the correct pronunciation is Ro-dan-thee. I don't want any of you trying to figure out how to pronounce this when you head towards the bookstore!
The story is about middle-aged love, reminding readers that this wonderful emotion is not just owned by the young. Adrienne Willis, a reluctant divorcee in her mid-forties, meets Paul Flanner, a middle-aged doctor who also has left a marriage, as well as a prominent career in the small coastal town of Rodanthe, and sparks do fly. Adrienne is housesitting for a friend who owns an inn; Paul is a guest. During the visit, an angry storm forces them to batten down the house and hunker together till it passes. For two people who are both lonely and longing, these moments kindle a romance.
For anyone who sees striking similarities between this plot and that of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, you win a bonus point. There are so many thematic overlaps that we are calling this "Bridges for the new century."
In NIGHTS IN RODANTHE, Adrienne confesses the story of her days with Paul to her daughter, who is grieving the loss of her young husband. Trying to shake her out of her own world, Adrienne offers much more detail than I think most mothers and daughters share. Her tale does roust her daughter from her depression and gives her the energy she needed to turn her attention back to her children who need her desperately.
There are moments when Sparks can paint a picture with a line. When Adrienne returns from the surprise 40th birthday party her husband threw her and undresses in the bedroom, her husband ignores her. This is a signal that his interest in elsewhere, despite the overt show he put on earlier in the evening.
Paul gives Adrienne two major gifts --- one is a chance to feel alive again and the other is an opportunity to care for her father the way she wants. While their physical relationship only lasts a few days, the ramifications of what they both share will fuel a lifetime.
While this was not my favorite Sparks book --- no title has been as strong as THE NOTEBOOK --- I still enjoyed the time I spent with it and feel that any Sparks fan, or fan of a nice easy story will feel the same.
Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on September 17, 2002