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Nights in Rodanthe    by Nicholas Sparks order for
Nights in Rodanthe
by Nicholas Sparks
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

While reading this engaging novel, I kept asking myself why it is so appealing. After all, the plot is fairly simple: a mother shares with her grieving, widowed daughter a story that she had kept from her children, and so helps her daughter to come to terms with her own situation. I concluded that the appeal lies in the author's ability, in this novel and others, to speak to the heart, of love and loss, and of responsibility to those who remain.

At sixty, Adrienne Willis has been divorced for seventeen years and her children are grown. She has no desire to be young again, but wonders if it is possible for the young 'to look past the graying hair and wrinkles and see the woman she used to be.' She reflects on a long weekend in Rodanthe that changed her life and decides to finally break her silence and disclose what happened to her daughter Amanda, whose prolonged grief after her husband's death is affecting her small children.

So Adrienne tells Amanda (and the reader) a tale of events fourteen years earlier when her husband had just left her and she watched the Inn at Rodanthe for a friend, hoping to clear her mind. The only guest is Paul Flanner, whose own marriage and son have been casualties to his obsession with achievement. The love of a lifetime develops over that week-end, but the reader is left to wonder, along with Amanda, why these two people are not together.

What I particularly liked about this story is that its lovers are not twenty-something. Its 'better to have loved and lost' theme is applied to a middle-aged couple and recounted by a sixty-year old woman who is still vital, active and caring. The author's insights on the human condition are simple but true, as when Adrienne tells us that people, young or old, aren't all that different in what they want from life, but 'most young people seemed to think that these things lay somewhere in the future, while most older people believed that they lay in the past.'

Nights in Rodanthe shows us grief, loss and coping from several different angles, centered on a mystery whose suspense builds unbearably. It's a tear-jerker, short and sweet but never trite, which acknowledges the reality of grief alongside the need for responsibility to those who remain. Though entire years had been 'washed away like sandy footprint's near the water's edge' of Adrienne's memory, she would never forget Rodanthe.

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