When I began working as a counselor, I started gathering “tools” that would help patients recognize the underlying issues of their problems. One of those tools is called SUD’S, an exercise that encourages people to examine Seemingly Unimportant Decisions. THE CHOICE reminds me of that exercise and reinforces the theory that all choices, no matter how seemingly unimportant, have consequences. And the choices often have far-reaching, rippling effects.
Nicholas Sparks has become a favorite storyteller because of his ability to take ordinary people, put them in extraordinary situations and create unexpected outcomes --- though, I confess, I sometimes rewrite the endings in my mind. For example, in MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE, the ship definitely was not wrecked! Regardless of our wishes, however, his stories never fail to tug on the heart and bring tears of sorrow and joy to the reader.
THE CHOICE has all of the elements that we have come to expect from Sparks, not the least of which is characters a little larger than life who have made some choices that were bolder than the ones we ourselves made. For example, Travis Parker chose to backpack around Europe instead of settling into a job right after college. Gabby Holland chose to move away from where her boyfriend lived in order to establish her individuality. Neighbors and family members go beyond the call of duty to help one another and expect nothing in return.
Yet, despite the seemingly idyllic life that people lead in Beaufort, North Carolina, and regardless of the fact that Travis Parker epitomizes the man from "Venus" who so many women are searching for, Sparks manages to reveal conflicts that keep us turning the pages to see how the characters will work them out. And we care because these are individuals we can empathize with and feel sympathy for. Even so, we pause to ponder what we would do in the same situation if we were faced with the consequences of a seemingly unimportant decision that we made a long time ago and then quickly forgot about.
It would be difficult to say more about the plot without spoiling the ending. Suffice it to say that THE CHOICE is a great choice if you're looking for a change of pace from the mysteries and thrillers that you usually enjoy reading. Like a scoop of sorbet during an Italian feast, it cleanses the palate with an enjoyable romance (sans the seamy sex) and provides subtle lessons in love and hope. While you may not need as many tissues as you did while reading THE NOTEBOOK, it wouldn't hurt to have them handy.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on August 19, 2008