THE SUNFLOWER has introduced me to Richard Paul Evans, and I think
I'm hooked. Although his writing is very simple and somewhat
predictable, he tells a good story. For those who enjoy romances in
foreign settings, touched with a bit of adventure, here's a book
you can get into pretty quickly. It opens with a man and his
daughter (unnamed characters) on a tour in the jungles of Peru to
help out with the poor. During this trip, the man encounters Paul
Cook, who then proceeds to tell his story.
Paul's story begins on Christmas Eve in the ER back in the United
States. He's on duty that night and thinks he could have saved his
two main patients, but unfortunately they do not make it. One is a
young boy who had a tiny toy soldier lodged in his throat. The
other is a middle-aged man who had a heart attack. Following the
end of this scene, the story moves on to Christine, who has just
been dumped by her fiancé a week before their wedding. She is
devastated and cannot understand why this is happening to her. All
her life she has dreamed of her wedding day, and now it's not even
going to happen.
Best friend Jessica tries to cheer Christine up by taking them both
on a trip to Peru for a tour that will allow them to work with the
poor, helping the villagers while also learning about the native
jungles and what it is like to live there. Despite Christine's
protests, they end up in Machu Picchu anyway. Christine is a city
girl and is very high-maintenance. She does not do well at all
during the initial part of their trip, complaining nonstop. But on
her first day in the village, she bumps into a man, Paul Cook, not
realizing that it's his orphanage they will be helping out during
their stay in Peru.
While Evans's writing is rather simplistic in nature, the focus is
the story and the characters he creates. He paints an exciting and
exotic portrait of the jungles of Peru, and the reader will be able
to imagine the life these people lead. Paul Cook left the States to
devote his time to these poverty-stricken children, and while he
seems very content, it is Christine who awakens something in him.
He's almost ready to ask her to commit to a relationship, despite
the fact that he lives in poverty and has nothing to offer her
except his love.
Christine starts off as a very high-maintenance prima donna who I
didn't care for, but Peru changes her and helps her grow up.
Working with the poor also helps her forget Martin, the fiancé
who abandoned her a week before their wedding. I found Jessica to
be rather irritating as she seems to be the exact opposite of
Christine. While Christine is rigid and follows the rules, Jessica
is very free-spirited and blase about her relationships with men.
The casual affair means nothing to her but fun and excitement.
Christine needs something more than just fast sex and a roll in the
hay. She is touched by Paul's devotion to the villagers, admires
him, and finds him to be very attractive. While Christine and Paul
get to know each other as friends, Jessica also meets a man who may
change her life --- or maybe he will pass through her life before
she meets yet another eligible bachelor. Her actions, however,
endanger her life and the lives of others, as readers will find
THE SUNFLOWER is what I like to call a comfort read, a simply
written love story that is clean and almost old-fashioned in its
contents. This is the story of two people who meet by chance and
whose lives are changed forever because of it. Recommended.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org) on January 23, 2011