Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: The Lucky One

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.

Filled with tender romance and terrific suspense, The Lucky One is Nicholas Sparks at his best—an unforgettable story about the surprising paths our lives often take and the power of fate to guide us to true and everlasting love.

I saw Nicholas Sparks speak a few years ago at the National Book Festival. I had fallen in love with The Notebook like most of America so I thought he'd be interesting to hear. He followed John Irving's talk in the fiction tent. Talk about opposites! (But that's another post altogether.) Sparks' spoke mostly about his work in progress at the time: The Last Song. The book they were pushing in the Festival's make-shift bookstore, however, was The Lucky One. I remember thinking it sounded interesting but then saw the long, long, long line to buy it. I assumed I might pick it up at another time but with so many books on my TBR list, that simply didn't happen. Then the movie came out.

I've mentioned before that I can't watch a movie and then read the book it's based on. I can do the opposite however. And, thus, my attention was turned back to The Lucky One. I'm not always a fan of alternating prospective and this is alternating third person perspective, something else I'm even less used to reading. Sparks makes it work, however, and the characters all seem incredibly real and, at least for Elizabeth and Logan, completely relatable and enjoyable. Elizabeth's ex-husband Keith definitely sells the all-around creep persona. To this end, you will genuinely feel like you know these people, their motivations, and all the intricacies of their complicated relationships.

I haven't read a ton of Sparks' work but I've read some. The characters in The Lucky One are 29 years old and yet they have old souls, likely due to their circumstances: Logan's war experience and Elizabeth's single mother status and primary caretaker role. For this reason I think the book will attract a wide audience across age groups. It's also a universal story of love and acceptance and about finding one's way in the world. 

The story could have benefitted from some more action sprinkled throughout. As it stands, much of the beginning and middle portions of the novel are character development and the groundwork upon which a romance could build. There are, of course, twists and turns although given the alternating third person perspective, the reader already knows the information the characters themselves are shocked to discover. For this reason, the tension is a little deflated. I didn't find myself tiring during these sections but by the end, when the tension rises, the stakes are high, and the action is great, I realize that Sparks can really shine in an action scene. I wish there had been more.

All in all, this story is a quick and overall enjoyable read for someone who wants to experience a second chance at love with a couple of likable characters. You'll also find yourself believing a little more in luck or at least experiencing increased faith that positive thinking can do wondrous things.

Did you read the book or the movie? What did you think? Where does this rank with other Nicholas Sparks books you've read? 

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