This is the eleventh Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read, and I haven’t yet gotten through all the ones I own. I keep hoping I’ll pick up another gem like A Walk to Remember, but that hasn’t quite happened yet. Usually, I despise the characters in these books, so it was actually a pleasant surprise to be able to stand both Gabby and Travis, our love interests. However, neither of them had any major flaws, which is irritating, and I’ve gotten over my high school fantasy of love at first sight—the notion is no longer romantic or dreamy, just unrealistic and boring. Unfortunately, this book isn’t really what is pretends to be. It’s not a love story about how Gabby and Travis come together through their struggles and difficulties—that’s about half the book, and everything else is spent on completely different events. As a result, I ended up being bored by the story and unimpressed with the way things played out.
(It's a two star book for me. I forgot to rate the book before I wrote the review, so it's not showing up on this post.)
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- I did like Travis and Gabby, although I wish they had both been fleshed out a bit more. Neither of them made terribly idiotic decisions, even if they were sometimes a bit unrealistic in their dialogue. I found myself able to follow their story without any frustration towards them, which is a really positive thing for me. Main characters are important to me, and I need to be able to like the main characters if I’m going to like a story. So while I didn’t end up enjoying the whole book, at least Travis and Gabby (mostly) did their job as main characters.
What I Didn’t Like:
- I used to (want to) believe you could fall in love over the course of a day or a weekend. That when you meet the person you’re supposed to be with, you’ll just know, regardless of how long you’ve been together. But I’ve grown up since then, and the instalove doesn’t attract me like it once did. I believe you have to know someone to fall in love (even though I know from experience that sometimes you get ridiculous feelings that feel a bit like love for people you don’t really know). I suspect what Gabby and Travis have in this book is more like that feeling I’ve had than actual love, because it only takes a weekend for them to express their undying devotion to one another. What’s sad is that I’ve grown up and left that fantasy behind, but this book supposedly meant for “adults” retreats into it as something we should believe in, even hope for. The three or four days the beginning of this book covers were so brief that I had no time to fall in love with Travis and Gabby as a couple, or see their love grow before they declared their love. You may have a giant crush on someone after a great weekend with them, but you can’t be in love. I just don’t believe it. At least, not with Gabby and Travis.
- The major problem with this book that it, essentially, had absolutely no conflict. The synopsis doesn’t set you up for the fact that only half this book is spent getting to know Travis and Gabby, and the second half is focused years into their marriage when Gabby is in a coma. Travis’s “choice” is whether to do what Gabby wanted and unhook her feeding tubes after twelve weeks or to keep her in a nursing home and just hope she wakes up. As a result, we’re given lots of little flashbacks and insights to their marriage throughout the years, Gabby’s pregnancies with their two daughters, Christine and Lisa, and their overall progress as a couple. Most of it is spent with Travis whining in his head about how unfair this whole thing is, explaining to us how much he loves Gabby more than anything, and how their love is different and stronger than anybody else’s. It was boring and repetitive throughout the whole last hundred pages. Yes, there’s the lingering question of what choice Travis will make, but like I said, it lacks conflict. I knew Travis wouldn’t pull her feeding tube, because Travis was too “in love” to love his wife enough to do what she wanted him to do. And it’s only made up for by having Gabby wake up at the end, because heaven forbid the realistic thing happens and she continues in her coma and Travis is left knowing he should have done what she wanted instead of what he wanted.
- I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this aspect of Sparks’ writing before, but maybe I have. The thing I don’t like is that everything is told to me, not shown. “Show don’t tell” is an age-old mantra of writers everywhere, but Sparks seems to have thrown that out the window. I couldn’t fall in love with Travis and Gabby because I wasn’t shown their love; I was beat over the head with it by what other people had to say about them. Several characters stop to tell Travis how inspiring he and Gabby are, how they want their own love stories to be like theirs. Travis’s narration explains years’ worth of good deeds to convince us that they are in love. He even compares himself to other people he doesn’t know—the Bakers are another family where the wife has lapsed into a coma. Mr. Baker grows to somewhat resent the fact that his wife hasn’t woken up after seven or so years, and it pulls his family apart. (But Travis loves Gabby more than Mr. Baker could have loved his wife because that would never happen to him.) In addition, Travis sees an old woman every day at the hospital whose husband is ill. Since she has the audacity to smile instead of moan and drag herself around all the time, obviously they didn’t love each other as much as Gabby and Travis love each other. It was downright insulting to read, and I was angry at Travis for thinking superior thoughts. I wanted to feel their love, not hear about it over and over again. Words didn’t convince me that it was true. All the time spent bashing me over the head with these convictions should have been spent giving me their story as it happened, not in random flashbacks.
- Right, we’re also supposed to believe that Gabby and Travis watched what happened to Mr. Baker and his family because his wife never woke up, then Gabby had a serious conversation with Travis about what to do if she ever fell into a coma. This is the most unrealistic series of events ever, and it certainly didn’t fly with me.
Overall: This certainly wasn’t my favorite book from Sparks, but I’m afraid I would have liked it a whole lot more if the whole coma thing had been thrown out the window. It certainly would have made it more possible for me to actual fall in love with Gabby and Travis’s relationship, which I couldn’t with the structure given here. I didn’t appreciate the trampling of Gabby’s boyfriend or the constant comparisons to other couples Travis made throughout the second half of the book. It didn’t make me believe “true love conquers all,” but rather that authors will make happen whatever they want to happen. Not recommended. (But hey, maybe the movie will be better, as tends to happens with Sparks’ stories.)