D.G. Martin Column: Some good news for New Bern

Published 4:51 pm Monday, October 8, 2018

Last month’s flooding from Hurricane Florence brought such bad news to New Bern and its neighboring cities, towns and communities.

There is a little bit of good news for New Bern this month.

The town’s best-selling author, Nicholas Sparks, is releasing a new book, “Every Breath.”

D.G. Martin

All of Sparks’s 20 novels have been regulars on The New York Times Best Seller lists, often at No. 1, making him one of the world’s most successful writers of what some call commercial fiction. Others say simply that he writes love stories.

The new book, like almost all Sparks’ books, is set largely on the North Carolina coast, beginning at Sunset Beach and nearby Bird Island close to the border with South Carolina.

There is an African connection in Nicholas Sparks’s new book: Tru Walls, a white safari guide from Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, comes to Sunset Beach to meet his biological father.

In 1990, the 42-year-old Tru, as Sparks explained to me on UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch,” “arrives in North Carolina, a little bit of a mystery why, but it’s for personal reasons, and he’s there for about a week, and he’s staying at a house on Sunset Beach while he works on this personal business. Lo and behold, there’s a woman next door who’s a little younger than Tru, but not too young, and she’s there for the wedding of one of her girlfriends. Her boyfriend kind of stood her up for this week at the beach, and so she’s alone and he’s alone, and it’s a Nicholas Sparks novel.”

Given that it is a Sparks novel, we should not be surprised that Tru meets this woman, Hope Anderson, a 36-year-old nurse from Raleigh.

In Sparks’ books the main characters always have to meet. As he told me, “You always have to have a way that the characters first meet, and you kind of want it to be at least somewhat original and something, and that gets challenging when you’re trying to think of originality in terms of film or television or other books.”

He explained how he brought Tru and Hope together for the first time. “You want to have something that feels fresh and original. So in this case [Hope’s] dog runs over the dune as he’s trotting down the beach chasing birds, sees a cat, goes over the dune, car squeals, and our hero Tru kind of goes over there to see if the dog’s okay. The dog’s okay, probably bumped a little, but he’s shaking, but he seems okay. So he carries the dog back over the dune to the beach for the woman because she was so far down the beach he wasn’t sure that she’d seen the dog. He’s got her dog. Well, she has to talk to him. Why do you have my dog? Why are you holding my dog? What happened to my dog? And, of course, then they have to walk back together.”

Hope is in a long-term relationship with Josh, a self-centered orthopedic surgeon. Nevertheless, after this chance meeting, she and Tru immediately fall into a deeply passionate love affair.

How Hope resolves her competing feelings for Tru and Josh is the thread that guides the book to a poignant conclusion 24 years later at another North Carolina beach.

Sparks’ publishers say that “Every Breath” is in the spirit of “The Notebook,” which is in contention this month for designation by PBS’s “Great American Read” as “America’s Best Loved Novel.”

In both “The Notebook” and “Every Breath,” the lovers’ early encounters involve fiery and total passion. They are separated, and each woman is deeply involved with another man. Sparks brings them together again years later as older, even infirmed, people still deeply in love.

Whether “Notebook” is designated America’s Best Loved Novel, its fans should love “Every Breath.”

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch” Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on UNC-TV, leading directly into “The Great American Read” project on PBS.