I’ve never been a Nicolas Sparks person. The stories have never really appealed to me and he tends to be nastily dismissive of a genre I write (and I would argue he attempts to write), but when my book club chose “Safe Haven” as a release, I figured I’d give it a shot.
In it, mysterious Katie has come to a small North Carolina town to start over after running away from a violently abusive relationship. After a while in self-imposed exile, she makes a tentative friendship with her neighbor Jo and starts a reluctant romance with local widowed shopkeeper, Alex, who has two young children. But as their ‘love’ blossoms, she knows her violent ex, police detective Kevin, will eventually find her.
And that’s the synopsis. It’s short, but that’s because the book is entirely predictabe from beginning to almost the end. Katie, who is supposed to be so shut off, is actually an open book. Half the people she meets can guess her real story within five minutes. Once she is confronted with any suggestion of her past, she spills her guts from beginning to end and then says, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” But she does. Multiple times.
Additionally, there are very few secondary characters. Katie obviously has no one and Alex has long, rather unbelievable stories why no one in his life makes any contact with him and his children, despite the fact that they’ve suffered a terrible tragedy. Jo sort of floats in and out of the story, as do a couple other very, very minor characters, including Kevin, the abusive ex whose point-of-view we get a few times for some reason.
But mostly we are left on the island of Katie and Alex, where love happens when the author tells us. I felt like there was little build up to the big ‘I love you’ kind of moments. Alex loves Katie because he’s attracted to her and I guess sorry for her? I was never really sure. Nothing is unexpected. Of course the children feel no hesitation about Katie, of course Alex feels no guilt about finding love a second time after his beloved wife’s death, of course Kevin shows up in town after Katie makes what can only be characterized as a colossal mistake given everything we keep getting told about Kevin. Of course he comes with bad intentions and there’s a showdown where everything could be lost. There is one tiny twist at the end regarding Jo, but though I didn’t see it coming, by that point I hardly cared anymore.