As far as I am concerned, Nicholas Sparks only ever came up with one real story when he wrote . All his other novels are endless variations of that story: Two young lovers from opposite sides of the tracks (girl from the posh side and the guy from the wrong side most likely) fall madly in love.
But their passionate-but-doomed-from-the-beginning romance is marred by an impossible obstacle beyond their control — a dead ex-lover, a deadly disease or a dead-against-their-relationship society or family, preferably both — that forces them to part ways. A chance reunion reignites the passion. But the lovers are seperated once again in a bittersweet ending (read: someone going to die).
No matter what the permutation one thing is certain — female readers (and perhaps some closet male fans too) will bawl their eyes out. In fact, the bestselling author is counting on it for he has made a fortune out of finding out the what makes his readers cry and used it to mercilessly tug at their tear ducts to sell more than 55 million books and clinch several Hollywood deals for movie adaptations.
Of all the Sparks novels, <The Best of Me> is perhaps the most contrived and disappointing, even though the book’s premise starts off promising enough. High school sweethearts meet again at the funeral of a mutual friend some 25 years later and realise they never stopped loving each other.
The story moves back and forth in time giving chunks of information about the main characters. Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier are star-crossed lovers whose personal circumstances ultimately short-circuit their relationship. He is from the wrong side of the tracks but nothing like his family that is notorious for being violent lawbreakers and thugs. She comes from a wealthy, upstanding family but lacks their snootiness and judgemental attitude. Needless to say, their relationship mortifies Amanda’s family.
What follows isn’t hard to predict. Amanda’s family tries everything to break the couple up but when all else fails they issue an ultimatum — it’s either him or her dream of going to Duke University for they wouldn’t pay for her college if she was going to throw her life away anyway. Not one to stand in the way of her future, Dawson breaks up with her. Heartbroken, Amanda goes to college. And as fate would have it — and Sparks would contrive it — Dawson kills a man in an accident and goes to jail for four years. Meanwhile, upon not hearing from Dawson Amanda decides to move on. She meets Frank and marries him on finishing college.
Fast forward to present day, Dawson and Amanda return to their hometown and meet at the funeral of the mentor, Tuck, who supported them when no one else in the town would. Dawson has made enough money to live in comfort for the rest of his life but he is still alone. Amanda adores Frank and her three children but she never quite stopped loving Dawson. And now they are confronted with each other, their feelings and the life choices that they made.
Reminiscence rekindles the weekend of romance that had never really ebbed in the first place. But as the weekend gets over, so does their borrowed time. As much as she loves him, Amanda must return to her real life and family. Vintage Sparks. Then the story and plot begin to unravel.
In a completely contrived climax, on her way back home Amanda receives a call that her son has been in an accident. She reaches the hospital to realise he will die without a new heart. As if on cue, Dawson gets caught in a bar fight and gets shot. Two plus two equals four? Apparently even in parting, Dawson gives Amanda the best of him.
If Sparks’ aim in writing this book was to leave his fans misty eyed, then he has succeeded spectacularly yet again. Although, after16 years of rehashing the same formula one would think Sparks would try something new. But why should he? After all, his one story has made Sparks a literary phenomenon, not to mention rich beyond belief.