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A Bend in the Road    by Nicholas Sparks order for
Bend in the Road
by Nicholas Sparks
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A Bend in the Road is the first novel that I have read by Nicholas Sparks, though I watched and enjoyed the movie version of his Message in a Bottle. This is a charming and a thoughtful love story, with a vein of mystery; the tale of Sarah Andrews and Miles Ryan, of Missy Ryan, and of a shadowy watcher who introduces the book and is only revealed towards its ending.

Miles Ryan, deputy sheriff of the small southern town of New Bern, married his childhood sweetheart Missy, who 'was both charming and kind'. They named their son Jonah and led an idyllic existence for seven years. Then Missy was killed while jogging in a hit-and-run accident, leading to regular nightmares for Jonah and an obsession with finding her killer in Miles.

Two years later, Miles begins to realize that life can still go on. He meets and falls for Jonah's teacher Sarah. He's undaunted by the fact that her previous marriage failed due to her ex-husband's reaction to her inability to have children. Their courtship is delightfully hampered by Miles' shyness, which leads him to blurt out a question about a fan, when he really wants to ask Sarah for a date. Her mother's meddling is also entertaining.

The author lays the foundations of his love story slowly and carefully, engaging his reader's interest and sympathy for his characters as he builds to a crisis. When Miles suspects the identity of the driver in his wife's accident, his past obsession overwhelms his current love and puts both his career and his relationships at risk. Then the watcher comes into the light and Miles has to make some very hard decisions.

Though I enjoyed the romance in A Bend in the Road, it spoke to me most strongly about the danger of obsession and the importance of moving on after tragedy - focusing on the present and on important relationships in it, particularly to children. Don't miss it; this is a book that's light on the surface but with subtle depths.

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