Safe Haven (Sparks)

Safe Haven
Nicholas Sparks, 2012
Grand Central Publishing
432 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781455523542



Summary
When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past.

Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her...a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo's empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards...and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven. (From the publisher.)



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


Ever since The Notebook made Nicholas Sparks a word-of-mouth publishing sensation in 1996, he has maintained his status as a bestselling author of tragedy-tinged love stories. His spare, simply themed novels star ordinary people overcome by extraordinary emotions, and changed by them.

It's possible that Sparks might have enjoyed his level of popularity by writing these stories strictly from imagination, but in fact his family's struggles play an important role in many of his books, especially the earliest novels. (For example The Notebook, his tale of a great love affair extending into old age, was inspired by his wife's grandparents; Message in a Bottle drew from Sparks' father's life story and A Walk to Remember from his late sister's.) In addition, a three-week trip he and his older sibling Micah undertook in 2003 became the basis for Three Weeks with My Brother, a unique memoir as moving and tenderhearted as any of his fiction.

Sparks is very methodical about his writing, an approach he makes transparent on his web site with several essays, updates on works in progress, and notes on the mechanics of his novels. Unsurprisingly, critics have faulted him for being too formulaic or cliched. Still, Sparks never fails to move his stories along quickly, maximizing emotional impact and featuring strong, down-to-earth characters. His endings also tend to depart from convention a bit, revealing tragedy where the walk into the sunset should be.

Although he is often classified as a Romance writer, Sparks is quick to point out that his books don't really satisfy the requirements of Romance publishers. Instead, he admits to writing love stories, a different genre altogether. Whatever he cares to call them, one thing's for sure: Nicholas Sparks continues to strike gold with his bittersweet novels of love and loss.

Extras
• Sparks came to his career in an unconventional way: Sidelined after a running injury at University of Notre Dame, where he had won a full track scholarship and still holds the 4x800 relay record, he decided to write a book after his mother offhandedly suggested it as a way to make him stop brooding. His first novel remains unpublished ("It's a wonderful story -- except for the writing," he wrote later), but he kept trying. He later coauthored an inspirational title called Wokini; but his third novel (The Notebook) was the charm.

• Blockbuster film adaptations of Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, and The Notebook have turned Sparks into a successful Hollywood franchise.

• Sparks' wife is probably one of the most envied wives around. She met Nicholas in college at spring break, where he informed her that they would be married. She laughed him off, but they were married just over a year later. He told Barnes & Noble.com in a 1999 interview, "I suppose I'm a romantic. Ladies Home Journal has even called me the Most Romantic Husband in America. In fact, I sent my wife a dozen roses today."

• Sparks was still selling pharmaceuticals and had only just delivered the final version of The Notebook to his agent when she called, two days after receiving the manuscript, telling him she expected "something big." That something big materialized within the week: a $1 million offer from Warner Books.

• Sparks holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. (From Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
When Katie turns up in Southport, N.C., her presence in the small town and determination to keep to herself raises questions. But when events beyond her control force Katie to open up—and she begins to fall in love—she must come to grips with a dark secret from her past. Narrator Rebecca Lowman captures the essence of Sparks' novel and creates numerous voices and dialects for his characters, including the smooth Southern drawl of Katie's mysterious neighbor and sisterly confidant Jo, as well as the New England accent of Katie's estranged husband Kevin. Lowman also does her best to keep Katie from descending into movie-of-the week victimhood, particularly as the heroine enters into a budding romance with widower storekeeper Alex.
Publishers Weekly


A young woman with secrets finds home, community and a potential new love in a small North Carolina beach town; now if she can only rid herself of a past that haunts her, she may just have the life she's always longed for. No one in Southport, N.C., seems too concerned with the fact that Katie wants to keep to herself, even if it is a small town, and she's a mysterious, pretty woman. But since there's only one attractive, eligible man in the whole town--Alex, the widowed owner of the town's general store--then it only makes sense that the two would notice each other. Throw in a couple of events that allow Katie to show herself as a woman of character (despite her secretive ways) and Alex to represent a perfect man, and of course, the two of them will wind up on the path to true love. Especially since she's great with kids, and he just happens to have two of them, to whom he is a gentle, wonderful father with the patience of a saint. But, alas, Katie is a woman with secrets, and that generally means that there is someone out there looking for her. Since Katie lives in a tiny, isolated shack in the middle of nowhere, it's a good thing she likes her quirky new neighbor, Jo. Jo encourages her to become more invested in Alex, who, everyone knows, is a good man. Romance progresses. A haunting past life catches up with Katie with frightening consequences. Love prevails. An emotionally wrenching story with a dramatic happily-ever-after.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. When Alex first meets Katie, he senses that she is in trouble. How does he figure out what has happened to her?
 
2. What is the nature of Jo and Katie’s relationship? How does Jo help Katie adjust to her life in Southport?
 
3. Katie and Alex fall in love very quickly. What draws them together? Have you ever fallen in love so quickly? If not, do you think it’s possible?
 
4. On their first date, Alex says to Katie: “Everyone has a past, but that’s just it—t’s in the past. You can learn from it, but you can’t change it.” Do you agree with him? Is it possible to truly put the past behind you?
 
5. Alex is a widower who has had to raise two children on his own. How has he dealt with his grief in the years since his wife passed away? Have you experienced grief of this magnitude in your own life? How did you handle it?
 
6. When Katie tells Alex about Kevin she says: “I hate him, but I hate myself, too.” Why does she feel this way? How does Katie change as she spends more and more time in Southport? How is she different by the end of the book?  
 
7. Despite his violent behavior and his incessant drinking, Kevin quotes the Bible constantly and takes the Ten Commandments seriously. How do you understand his behavior?
 
8. Katie’s past puts Alex and his family in potential danger. Do you think it was irresponsible of Alex to involve himself with a woman he knew could endanger him and his children?
 
9. Why do you think the author chose to write a portion of the book from Kevin’s perspective. Do you have any sympathy for Kevin? Why or why not?
 
10. Did reading this book give you a new or better understanding of domestic abuse?
 
11. At the end of the novel, Alex tells Katie he is sorry for her loss. What does he mean by this? How does Katie react?
 
12. What do you make of Katie’s discovery at the end of the novel? Do you find the book’s ending believable?
 
13. This novel is in large part about safety and trust and how we often take these two things for granted. Did this book make you think differently about your own life and the things you value?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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