Nicholas Sparks,
Nights in Rodanthe
(Time Warner, 2002)

Nights in Rodanthe is Nicholas Sparks' latest novel, reviewed here in audiobook format. Let me acknowledge right at the start that I was not the intended audience for this tale about falling in love (a second time) in the middle of one's life. Consequently, while I will not rave about the story as the intended audience might have, I will admit I enjoyed it more than I expected.

The story unfolds in a small coastal North Carolina town. Most of the action took place in the mid-'80s, but the story is told reflecting back from the present day. The two main characters are Adrienne Willis and Paul Flanner. When they first meet, Adrienne is 45, several years divorced, and depressed from losing her husband to a younger woman. Paul is recently retired and recently divorced at 54. After decades of living for his medical practice, he has started focusing more on his life and the lives of his loved ones, specifically his only son, whom he ostracized years before.

Why this change in Paul? During a seemingly simple plastic surgery operation, one of his patients died for no discernable reason. Paul has gone to Rodanthe at the request of the lost one's husband, who feels the need to talk with the doctor without lawyers present. Adrienne has gone to Rodanthe to help out a friend who owns an inn there. While normally closed during the winter months, a Mr. Flanner has requested a room and was willing to pay a rate that couldn't be ignored. Thinking her interactions with Paul would be minimal, Adrienne thinks watching over the inn would give her a few days virtually by herself.

As a fierce storm moves into the area, Paul and Adrienne slowly reveal the secrets of their lives to each other. At a time when both are emotionally needy, they are drawn to each other in a way one normally only sees in entertainment. Within days, they fall in love. This audiobook describes their love affair and gives one hope that there is always a second chance at love.

While I am not very familiar with Sparks' work, I can see from his website that love is a common theme in his writing. Storms and Southern locales are also frequent features. Nights in Rodanthe is a romance novel that a man could stomach, but middle-aged women are probably Nicholas' primary fans.

What made Nights in Rodanthe palatable for me was the reading done by JoBeth Williams. You might remember her from such films as Poltergeist and The Big Chill. She has a great Southern accent and can also modify it enough that each character in the story, male or female, has a unique voice. Williams is a talented actress on screen or tape.

Nights in Rodanthe is a good story. I was interested enough in the lives of Adrienne and Paul to keep listening to them talk about their pasts. I enjoyed watching them transform their emotional well-being into something more healthy than it was. But I did have trouble seeing them fall in love at first sight. That aspect of the tale is a little too "Hollywood" for me. If there is a main reason that I might recommend someone check out Nights in Rodanthe, it would be for the expert story-telling by JoBeth Williams.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 21 December 2002

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