Dear John (Sparks)

Dear John 
Nicholas Sparks, 2006
Grand Central Publishing
ISBN-13: 9780446567336

An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life—until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart.

But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. "Dear John," the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever.

Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—December 31. 1965
Where—Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Education—B.A., University of Notre Dame
Currently—lives in New Bern, North Carolina

Nicholas Charles Sparks is an American novelist, screenwriter and producer. He has published some 20 novels, plus one non-fiction. Ten have been adapted to films, including Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John, The Last Song, The Lucky One, and most recently The Longest Ride.

Sparks was born to Patrick Michael Sparks, a professor of business, and Jill Emma Marie Sparks (nee Thoene), a homemaker and an optometrist's assistant. He was the middle of three children, with an older brother and a younger sister, "Dana", who died at the age of 33 from a brain tumor. Sparks said that she is the inspiration for the main character in his novel A Walk to Remember.

His father was pursuing graduate studies at University of Minnesota and University of Southern California, and the family moved a great deal, so by the time Sparks was eight, he had lived in Watertown, Minnesota, Inglewood, California, Playa del Rey, California, and Grand Island, Nebraska, which was his mother's hometown during his parents' one year separation.

In 1974 his father became a professor of business at California State University, Sacramento teaching behavioral theory and management. His family settled in Fair Oaks, California, and remained there through Nicholas's high school days. He graduated in 1984 as valedictorian from Bella Vista High School, then enrolled at the University of Notre Dame under a full track and field scholarship. In his freshman year, his team set a record for the 4 x 800 relay.

Sparks majored in business finance and graduated from Notre Dame with honors in 1988. He also met his future wife that year, Cathy Cote from New Hampshire, while they were both on spring break. They married in 1989 and moved to New Bern, North Carolina.

Writing career
While still in school in 1985, Sparks penned his first (never published) novel, The Passing, while home for the summer between freshman and sophomore years at Notre Dame. He wrote another novel in 1989, also unpublished, The Royal Murders.

After college, Sparks sought work with publishers or to attend law school, but was rejected in both attempts. He then spent the next three years trying other careers, including real estate appraisal, waiting tables, selling dental products by phone and starting his own manufacturing business.

In 1990, Sparks co-wrote with Billy Mills Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding. The book was published by Random House sold 50,000 copies in its first year.

In 1992, Sparks began selling pharmaceuticals and in 1993 was transferred to Washington, DC. It was there that he wrote another novel in his spare time, The Notebook. Two years later, he was discovered by literary agent Theresa Park, who picked The Notebook out of her agency's slush pile, liked it, and offered to represent him. In October 1995, Park secured a $1 million advance for The Notebook from Time Warner Book Group. The novel was published in 1996 and made the New York Times best-seller list in its first week of release.

With the success of his first novel, he and Cathy moved to New Bern, NC. After his first publishing success, he began writing his string of international bestsellers.

Personal life and philanthropy
Sparks continues to reside in North Carolina with his wife Cathy, their three sons, and twin daughters. A Roman Catholic since birth, he and his wife are raising their children in the Catholic faith.

In 2008, Entertainment Weekly reported that Sparks and his wife had donated "close to $10 million" to start a private Christian college-prep school, The Epiphany School of Global Studies, which emphasizes travel and lifelong learning.

Sparks also donated $900,000 for a new all-weather tartan track to New Bern High School. He also donates his time to help coach the New Bern High School track team and a local club track team as a volunteer head coach.

In addition to track, he funds scholarships, internships and annual fellowship to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
It isn't hard to picture John Tyree. We can simply imagine his predecessors, men in uniform staring pensively from earlier wartime romances. Apart from the occasional detail—e-mail, cellphone, Outback Steakhouse—Dear John could take place in any modern American era. For Sparks, weighty matters of the day remain set pieces, furniture upon which to hang timeless tales of chaste longing and harsh fate. Only in a novel such as this could we find our political buzzwords—peacekeeping, IEDs, hurricane relief—interspersed with these sentiments: "And when her lips met mine, I knew that I could live to be a hundred and visit every country in the world, but nothing would ever compare to that single moment when I first kissed the girl of my dreams and knew that my love would last forever."
Margaux Wexburg Sanchez - Washington Post

Hot on the heels of True Believer and sequel At First Sight, Sparks returns with the story of ne'er-do-well-turned-army-enlistee John Tyree, 23, and well-to-do University of North Carolina special education major Savannah Lynn Curtis. John, who narrates, has been raised by a socially backward single postal-worker dad obsessed with coin collecting (he has Asperger's syndrome). John bypasses college for the overseas infantry; Savannah spends her college summers volunteering. When they meet, he's on leave, and she's working with Habitat for Humanity (he rescues her sinking purse at the beach). John has a history of one-night stands; Savannah's a virgin. He's an on-and-off drinker; she's a teetotaler. Attraction and values conflict the rest of the summer, but the deal does not close. Savannah longs for John to come home; her friend Tim longs to have a relationship with her. On the brink of John and Savannah's finally getting together, 9/11 happens, and John re-ups. Savannah's letters come less and less frequently, and before you know it, he receives the expected "Dear John" letter. Sparks's novel brims with longing.
Publishers Weekly

Sparks, a perennially popular novelist whose name is synonymous with romance and bittersweet endings and whose work translates so readily to movies, lives up to his reputation with his latest novel, a tribute to courageous and self-sacrificing soldiers. —Patty Engelmann

Discussion Questions 
1. In the first sentence of the prologue, John asks: "What does it mean to truly love another?" How does John’s answer to this question change over the course of the novel? How would you answer this question?

2. Savannah and John meet when John is on a furlough from the military and they fall deeply in love after only a few days. Is their love believable? Do you think it is possible to have such an intense connection with someone you’ve only just met?

3. Trying to explain her interest in John’s dad’s coin collection, Savannah says, "The saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand." Do you agree with Savannah? Do you think John’s father is a satisfied man?

4. Why does John get so angry when Savannah suggests what she does about his father and how, in the end, does this revelation change John’s life and his relationship with his father?

5. Savannah is described by both herself and Tim as being somewhat naïve. Do you think Savannah is naïve? Why or why not?

6. When John goes back to Germany after his furlough, he and Savannah vow to stay in touch and to marry when he returns. Do you think it’s possible to stay in love with someone without seeing them for months or years at a time? How does being apart affect Savannah and John’s relationship?

7. John eagerly awaits his discharge from the military so he can begin a life with Savannah, but John also has a deep sense of duty and loyalty to his country and fellow soldiers. After September 11, John makes a decision that will change his life and Savannah’s life forever. Do you think John made the right decision? Does Savannah think he made the right decision? Given the outcome, do you think John regrets his decision?

8. Do you think Savannah should have waited for John to come home or do you think it was understandable that she moved on with her life?

9. After fighting in the war in Iraq, John has a hard time telling people about his experience there. Instead, when asked what it was like, he responds with a harmless anecdote about the sand because doing so “kept the war at a safe distance” for other people. What does John mean by this? In what ways does the Iraq War change John and what are his feelings about his role in the war?

10. After John’s father dies, he goes to visit Savannah. How has their relationship changed at this point? Is Savannah different from who she was in the beginning of the novel? Do you think Savannah is still in love with John?

11. How do you think John views Tim, and how do his perceptions change by the end of the novel?

12. What do you make of John’s actions at the very end of the novel? Would you have done what he did if you were in his position?

13. How do you interpret the novel’s ending? How do you imagine John’s future?
(Questions issued by publishers.)

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