Monday, August 29, 2016

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Reviewed by Ambrea

Katie arrives in Southport, North Carolina, only a handful of belongings and a determination to avoid forming personal ties in this close-knit southern town.   She’s on the run from something—or someone—but she’s not about to talk to Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children to raise, and Alex isn’t about to ask.  As Katie settles into Southport, she finds herself drawn to Alex’s charming Southern accent and his stability, and she actually makes a friend in her bluntly honest neighbor, Jo.  She discovers she’s unexpectedly making a life for herself, and she couldn’t be happier, until a dark secret rises out of her past and threatens to destroy her future.

Oddly enough, I fell in love with Safe Haven.  I’ve always been reluctant to read Nicholas Sparks’ work.  I was never interested in reading The Notebook and I wasn’t thrilled with The Choice, but I loved watching A Walk to Remember and I even liked watching Safe Haven when it came on TV.  Regardless of my affinity for his movies, I was still a little hesitant to begin listening to an audiobook copy of Safe Haven, because I really didn’t know what to expect—or if I would even like it.

Well, I did.  And I was pleasantly surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed it.

I’ve read Nicholas Sparks in the past, but I could never fully enjoy his writing.  Something about The Choice just wasn’t appealing to me.  I’m not sure if it was his writing style, or the story, or the format—or if it just wasn’t right for me at the time—but, either way, I wasn’t very impressed.  I pretty much brushed Nicholas Sparks aside and discounted him as a writer.

However, I found myself enjoying Safe Haven more than I expected.  It’s a sweet little romance with endearing characters set in a small, Southern town on the coast, and it’s threaded with very subtle hints of magic.  I might have liked it because it reminded me of Sarah Addison Allen and Linda Francis Lee, but I think I might have also liked it best because it’s set in North Carolina.  I’ve been to tiny towns like Southport, I’ve been to beaches like Katie describes, so the story appealed to me on a deeply personal level.

Most importantly, I liked the narrator:  Rebecca Lowman.  Lowman, who also narrated The Girl Who Chased the Moon, does a fantastic job of bringing Sparks’ work to life.  She’s careful to distinguish characters with individual accents, using the soft drawl and twang of a Southern coastal town, while affecting different inflections in others.  I often felt myself drawn into the narrative as Lowman recounted Katie’s story and her desperate flight from her past.

Granted, I didn’t like Kevin for obvious reasons.  He wasn’t crafted very well, and he had a strange religious/superiority complex that made him unusual and slightly absurd, but I suppose that stems from being purposefully made crazy in a novel.  He’s not a great character and he’s just a horrible human being.  I really didn’t like him, and he kind of ruined the story for me, despite Lowman’s excellent narration.

Safe Haven was a great audiobook, overall.  It struck a perfect balance of romance, suspense, and drama without leaning in one direction or the other, and it had a little bit of magic thrown into the mix that made it stand out.  It’s sure to warm your heart, like it did mine.

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