book review: Safe Haven

Title: Safe Haven
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1st edition (September 14, 2010)
Category: contemporary fiction
Rating: B-

It was hard to fathom that he still wanted to spend an evening with her. And more important, that she wanted to spend an evening with him. Deep in her heart, she wasn’t sure she deserved to be happy, nor did she believe that she was worthy of someone who seemed . . . normal.

Author Nicholas Sparks has established a blueprint to best-selling novels: man and woman fall in love; trouble ensues; man and woman either overcome odds together or learn from their love. I’ve never read a Nicholas Sparks novel but I’ve seen the films The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe and Dear John. I couldn’t have chosen a better book to read during National Domestic Abuse Awareness month. Katie arrives in the small North Carolina town of Southport, rents a cabin and begins working at the local diner. She keeps to herself at first but soon catches the eye of Alex, a widowed store owner. Katie befriends her equally mysterious neighbor Jo who spends much of her time traveling as a grief counselor. Alex is former military where he worked mostly domestic dispute cases on base. He recognizes some of the same features in Katie but doesn’t push her about her past or how she arrived in town.

Eventually as Katie develops feelings for Alex and his two small children, she shares her horrific past. She married a Boston police officer who controlled and abused her for years. Sparks provides detailed and realistic depictions of Katie’s manipulative husband. As in most cases I’ve read about, no one would suspect that this upstanding Boston Police detective would be bloodying and bruising his wife. He knows how to keep it hidden. He also keeps all the money and keeps tabs on his wife so escaping is extremely challenging and only a weary, determined woman could make the plans to get away. He also successfully depicts Katie’s fears, insecurities and intense desire to start a new life. These aspects of Safe Haven make for a stimulating read.

Although Katie enjoys Alex’s company and has begun to claim Southport as home, she’s constantly looking over her shoulder expecting her husband to arrive any day. And when he does, will Katie survive the confrontation? Will her new, unfettered relationship with Alex survive? While predictable, Safe Haven is a quick, rather enjoyable read about an under-reported topic.

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