Safe Haven is the latest novel by Nicholas Sparks. It is a typical Sparks' story and to say that brings smiles to the faces of his fans and groans from the throats of his detractors. Sparks is known for writing sentimental tearjerkers that are just dramatic enough to be engrossing and just sad enough to bring on the tears. Most critics give his novels short shrift and dismiss him as a pop author along the lines of Danielle Steel.
In Safe Haven Sparks weaves a standard plot. A beautiful young woman comes to a small southern town and takes a job as a waitress. She is quiet and keeps to herself until the day she meets a handsome widower with two children. He seems to bring out her personality and opens her up a bit but even he can not seem to get to the heart of her secret.
The secret is the core of the story and it plays out over the pages. It is a devastating secret and one that can cause peril to Katie the waitress and to Alex the widower and his two children. To Sparks' credit he draws out the events of the story in a timely fashion, not dragging his heels when it comes time to reveal another part of the puzzle.
As he is telling the basic plot of the book he adds a side plot that the reader is not even aware of until the final pages of the book. How impressed the reader will be with the final revelation depends on how willing he or she is to suspend reality.
There is nothing wrong with writing a simple story about a love affair that brings two good people together. Readers will fall in love with Katie and Alex and cheer them on through all their ups and downs. Those who have loved all of Sparks' books from The Notebook through The Last Song will have the same feelings for this story.
Sparks is so successful and so well received by the masses that you wish he would try something just a little different. He has the talent to venture into other areas but he seems reluctant to leave the safety of his massive fan base.
A few years he wrote a memoir about a trip around the world he and his brother took. The book was titled Three Weeks with my Brother. It was one of the best stories he has ever written and it was not your standard Sparks' fare. It was personal and revealing. If he could again find an outlet into new territory he would broaden his fan base and add to his stature as a writer.
In the meantime, once a year we will be treated to a sweet love story with some kind of twist. It will be very successful and an also successful movie adaptation will follow. Sparks' fans will be delighted and he will remain a name on the best seller lists. Still it is hoped he will one day leave this "safe haven" and give us something that challenges him and us more.