Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nicholas Sparks has another hit on his hands.

I always feel a little funny reading Nicholas Sparks novels.  They are deeply sentimental and almost a little cheap.  But they are told well, and they seem to make fine films.  This one is no exception.


The Lucky One

Most Nicholas Sparks novels feature a handsome but misunderstood young drifter and a gorgeous, but lost or grieving, young heroine, and this one is no exception.  The Lucky One (416 pages, Grand Central Publishing, $7.99) tells the story of Logan Thibault, a Marine veteran who had extensive experience in Iraq, and Beth, or Elizabeth, a young divorcee with a ten-year-old son, Ben.

While on tour in Iraq, Logan found a photo in the sand, and while he tried to find its owner, he also carried it with him and began to think of it as his lucky charm.  After returning to the States, his best friend from the Marines persuaded him that this photo had saved his life in a number of situations and that he owed the woman in the picture at least his thanks.

With this advice and because of a gnawing emptiness he was feeling, Logan walked however many thousands of miles it is from Colorado to North Carolina, for in a small North Carolina town was where he believed he would find the young woman in the picture. 

When he gets to the town, though, he first encounters a sleazy deputy sheriff, whom he catches ogling and photoing naked coeds at a local river.  After an encounter with this deputy persuades him that he should keep his distance, we readers are discovering that he is actually the adolescent-seeming ex-husband of the heroine, Beth.

Keith Clayton, this deputy, is from the first family of this small town, and he is obviously as foolishly conceited as they come.  The first sign of his badness comes from his interactions with his son.  Ben is a bookish and musically-inclined young kid, and Clayton really wanted an athlete for a son.  He is brutal with the kid, and poor Ben reacts as one might expect.  He is miserable when he has to spend time with his father, and he dreads the grueling games of catch his father inflicts on him.

Clayton is even worse than this, though.  We discover that he has been trailing and then chasing off—with the force of the “law”—anyone Beth has dated since their divorce.  This makes it particularly galling to him that Logan has turned up as a worker at the kennel that Beth and her grandmother run and that the two seem to be hitting it off.  Ben has come to idolize Logan too, not only because he seems willing to spend time with him, but because he takes so much pleasure in doing so.

These three adults—Logan, Beth, and Clayton—are on a collision course, and for a while it seems as if Clayton may have the upper hand, but Beth and Logan are ready to fight back, and finally they do so with all they are worth.

Nicholas Sparks can tell a good story, and as always his Southern settings have a particular charm.  His plotting is strong, and although he is not above a cheap trick or two at the end, he writes a story that is compelling and in many ways true.

Nicholas Sparks

The Lucky One is available at Powell's, Vroman's and Amazon.

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