I’m going to try very hard not to make this one of those reviews that are all I-don’t-usually-read-books-like-this-but-I-did-and-I-was-pleasantly-surprised-by-how-this-book-didn’t-suck. Although that not-very-succinctly sums up my Sparks situation.
First (or second, at this point), let me say that I have not avoided Nicholas Sparks because I am too highbrow and fancy for his work. I ain’t highbrow.
I read romance novels.
Which, really, is why I have avoided Nicholas Sparks. He ain’t a romance writer, no matter what other reviewers say. See, the thing about romance, and the thing I like most about them, is that there is a nice predictable and always very happy ending, wherein the attractive hero and heroine get together forever and yay! sunshine, etc.
This, from what I had been led to understand, does not often happen in Nicholas Sparks books. My impression is that a sense of nobility, moral upstandingness, or death by cancer keeps the endings of Sparks novels from being truly happy. Bittersweet, maybe, but not the sunshine kind of happy I like.
But curiosity (and the Book Festival) made me take a second look, and I happened upon “True Believer.” There is no mention of tragedy on the jacket copy, so I felt reasonably safe to dig in.
And guess what! I liked it.
“True Believer” is the story of hotshot science journalist Jeremy Marsh, who, in an effort to become more TV-friendly, has made a career out of debunking the supposedly supernatural. Which brings him to Boone Creek, North Carolina, where a sinking cemetery was supposedly cursed by former slaves and now emits strange lights on foggy nights. Boone Creek will be familiar to many of us in West Virginia – a small town abandoned by industry, whose charm is not readily apparent to big city hotshot journalists. This leads Jeremy to clash with the town librarian, Lexie Darnell, although her grandmother, Doris, seems willing to give him a chance and cook him some delicious food.
Things I loved about the book:
| Sparks really captures the attitude of city folk toward small towns, especially New Yorkers, who think that, because they have easy access to everything, there’s no reason to live in the middle of nowhere.
| The love story! Jeremy and Lexie definitely fit the romance novel mode of prickle-at-first-sight, but then, you know. Love. Also, Lexie admires Jeremy’s shoulders a lot. They seem broad!
| The villain, such as he is, is named Tom Gherkin. “Like the pickle, but you can call me Tom.” (Although he is usually called Mayor Gherkin.)
| The heroine is a librarian.
Things I didn’t love as much:
| There’s no way a struggling small town library would have such a well-appointed rare book room!
This is a very gentle book. There is some emotional angst, which is natural when two people with broken hearts are trying to pretend they are not falling in love. But the truth behind the lights is not nefarious and (SPOILER!) nobody dies. The supporting cast of characters is as charming as the setting, and I found myself picking up the book when there were other things I should have been doing. (Like – don’t tell my boss – working at my desk.) And I didn’t cry at the end! I did get choked up at one part toward the end, but it wasn’t the tearjerker I was expecting. It was a love story, but there was a lot about family and family history, community, the plight of small towns, Southern cooking, and seeing things we need to see, even if they are not really there. And, of course, sometimes they are.
For the Sparks fans out there (and I suspect there are a few) – which one should I tackle next?
And don’t forget, Nicholas Sparks is coming HERE to CHARLESTON, y’all. Saturday, Oct. 16 at 2:30 at the West Virginia Book Festival. See you there.