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Friday, December 15, 2006

Dear John

I read Nicholas Sparks’ new book, Dear John, this week and like every other novel he’s written (yes, I’ve read all eleven of them), this one takes readers on an emotional roller coaster. Here’s a blurb about the book from Sparks’ website:

“An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life—until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who has captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. ‘Dear John,’ the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.”

As I was driving down Interstate 29 from Omaha to Kansas City ten or twelve years ago, I passed a sign that announced a town in Missouri called Savannah—population 4,762. I knew nothing about the town, but as I drove by that sign, and then the city itself, something hit me. Savannah would be a beautiful name for a daughter. Being a single guy with no marriage prospects on the horizon, I attempted to shake off the rather odd thought, but it never really left me. I just love the name.

So, I was immediately drawn to Savannah Lynn Curtis when I began reading Dear John. And that made me root for John even a little harder than I normally would have as he met, fell in love with, and pursued her. Sparks, as he always does, makes the entire journey a joy to read. Here are a few of John’s early observations about Savannah:
“I suppose I should explain why I jumped into the waves to retrieve her bag. It wasn’t that I thought she would view me as some sort of hero, or because I wanted to impress her, or even because I cared in the slightest how much money she’d lost. It had to do with the genuineness of her smile and the warmth of her laugh.”

“She laughed, and the sound was so melodic that I knew I wanted to hear it again.”

“As she answered, I got the feeling she was the kind of person who would never say a bad thing about anyone. Her regard for others struck me as refreshing and mature, and yet, strangely, I wasn’t surprised. It was part of that indefinable quality I’d sensed about her from the beginning, a manner that set her apart.”

“And as she sat beside me, I found myself wishing that I could be more like her.”

With all of that said, one of the things I love about the way Sparks crafts a love story is that no matter how much two people love each other, he never makes things easy for them. His characters always have to face their own demons. They always have to consider what life might be like without the one person they love the most. They always have to be willing to think about making huge sacrifices—because after all, that’s what love is all about—not because a person has to sacrifice, but love should prompt a person to want to.

Here’s how John said it toward the end of the book: Love means “that you care for another person’s happiness more than your own, no matter how painful the choices you face might be.”

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but even if you already knew the ending (which you’ll partially figure out as you read the Prologue), it’d still be worth reading this book to follow and experience the journey of two people who loved each other deeply and then had to make gut-wrenching decisions as circumstances demanded.


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