Book Review: Nights in Rodanthe – by Nicholas Sparks

When my daughter saw a Nicholas Sparks book on my nightstand, she actually asked me why I was reading it. I told her I tried to keep an open mind and read a “sensitive” book once in a while. A “chick book” as she would probably call it.

Here is a book that follows a well-tested formula and it is anything but unique. As I was working my way through it I kept thinking of how closely it followed “The Bridges of Madison County.”  Bridges, however, was much more fresh and surprising. Bridges, when I first read it, made me cry out loud, a first when reading a book. Rodanthe made me sniffle a few times at best.

The story was the same one:

A successful surgeon neglects his family all his life for his career. He gets burned out in his fifties, after he loses his wife to illness and his son to neglect. Then he sells his house, his practice and his life, and gets on his way to Ecuador to try to reconcile with his estranged son. He plans to be there for a year.

A housewife and mother of three school-aged children lost her husband to a younger woman and cannot forgive him. She cannot make ends meet, but is dedicated to raising her children to the best of her abilities.

Chance has it that the two of them are holed up in a bed and breakfast in a small coastal town in North Carolina by the name of Rodanthe. The woman, Adrienne, is taking care of the B&B for a friend of hers for the weekend. The surgeon, Paul, is the only guest of the B&B. They are there for a long weekend of four nights, during a severe storm that for the benefit of the plot keeps away all visitors and any other guests. Stuff can happen when two lost souls are together in a nice and romantic setting. And stuff does happen indeed.

As the plot goes, the first day together they get to know each other and we get to know the players. On the second day they fall in love and lust. That love gets consummated on the third and forth day, and then they part. Fate has it that they never meet again. Both are desperately in love, and for both there will never be another partner, not to mention a partner of true love and soul-mate-ship as they were to each other.

Bridges was that way, too, but it was a better constructed and more credible novel. Bridges seemed real, while this seemed contrived. Two middle-aged hapless souls meet and mate, and their lives are changed forever. Okay. What else?

In stories like this, there are way too many characters that are just not real. Paul, for instance, is a brilliant doctor, nationally renowned for his skill. But he is also a world-class runner, which helps make his body trim, muscular, and apparently sexy for the females in the story. Not only is he extremely successful, but he also has rugged good looks, a sensitive soul that, of course, is only brought out by the female protagonist, and it even surprises him himself. When he dresses, he just “throws on” a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt every day. The shirt shows his muscular arms and back, to the enticement of the female. His intense gaze and his humble demeanor round out his attractiveness.

Both characters “throw on” jeans at times in the story. That “throwing on” of clothes reminded me of another fairly weak book I had read a couple of years ago by Sandra Brown: A Kiss Remembered. Those guys also kept throwing on clothes. Have you noticed that only superhero doctors with perfect bodies, or 23 year old female Ph.D.s in Micheal Crichton stories can “throw on” jeans and T-shirts and get away with it?

Why can’t Paul be a credible and normal character. Yes, he can be a doctor, he can be anything, but it would have been more credible if he had had some flaws, if he had been a real person, not some superhero of the American society in the early 2000’s. Give me a shoe salesman, give me a carpenter, give me a postman, give me anybody that I am likely to run into at the supermarket, and I’ll get into your story. Give me real persons, not cartoon characters of precise drawing and coloring.

I could not quite picture Adrienne in this book. She is in her late forties, somewhat overweight and rounded, and with a few facial flaws, like a hooked nose. Of course, the plastic surgeon eventually tells her she does not need any surgery. Hmmm. We never really find out what’s up with her, and why he is all engrossed by her. She is a “normal person,” not a superhero like he. She works in a library. What exactly attracts Paul to her? Is it her looks, is it her smarts, is it her personality? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because she is the only woman there in the B&B, and all the women get sexier as it gets closer to closing time.

Maybe I will stay away from any more “chick books” for a while. On second thought, perhaps just Nicholas Sparks books.

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