by Nicholas Sparks
Summary from Goodreads
Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life – boating, swimming , and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies — he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Spanning the eventful years of young love, marriage and family, THE CHOICE ultimately confronts us with the most heartwrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?
Why I Chose the Book
I was in a small bookshop, or rather the book area of a charity store browsing for something to read. Nothing was jumping out at me, but I know Nicholas Sparks to be a best selling romance author so I didn’t think I could go wrong. Read the back blurb and thought I’d hit the jackpot. Apparently it is coming to theaters in February so that sparked my interest as well.
Predictable, but unique. I know that’s a contradiction so I’ll explain. Gabby is a great heroin. She’s got a good job as a physician assistant and she’s not without her flaws. The main two are jumping to conclusions and avoidance. The storyline is predictable and not just in the “this is a romance novel so it’s going to follow the structure of a romance novel” kind of way. For example: Gabby goes off on a tirade against her neighbour for allowing his dog to roam the neighbourhood and get her dog knocked up. He denies it, and she finds out later what you’ve probably already guessed. His dog has been neutered and it’s just one big misunderstanding.
This easily could have been a five star book. Part one went beautifully. It had all of the elements of a well choreographed love story even if the speed was far from believable. Awkward meeting, check. Sparks, check. Conflict, check. Get together despite conflict, check. None of this is ground-breaking mind you, but Sparks gave above average character and humour to the story.
Part two is where it all fell apart. All romance novels have a period of heartbreak, where you’re not supposed to be sure if they can come back from whatever it is that has split them apart. In the good ones, like The Choice, the author brings you to tears. I was so concerned at one point that I skipped to the end and read the last chapter. I skipped from chapter 16 to 23 (Epilogue). Relieved, I continued reading at chapter 17. By chapter 19 I’d put the book down with no intention of picking it back up. I couldn’t take four more chapters of depressing narrative; I kept having to wipe off my glasses every couple of pages. Turns out, the first bit that I liked was really a prequel to the main plot of the story, the part where Travis has to make a choice. I’d completely forgotten he was the one making a choice about how far to go for love since Gabby had a love related decision to make in part one. I flipped back to the epilogue now that I knew what was going on and re-read it just to finish the book more or less properly.
The ending was deeply unsatisfactory. It was actually more satisfactory the first time I’d read it and went “whew they are together at the end” (as is the case for all romance novels, so that shouldn’t be a spoiler), I actually liked it more than when I knew what was going on. Rule of thumb is that the epilogue should be a bonus and the final chapter is where the main story ends. Neither Chapter 22 nor the epilogue felt complete to me.
There are books that book clubs pick that happen to have a discussion guide provided and then there are books written for book clubs. I despise the latter; they feel forced, like the author is intentionally leaving out detail to stimulate conversation instead of letting it happen organically. The Choice fell into the latter category.
Without having seen the movie, I recommend watching it. I think the plot is there and it will be a good film once Hollywood is done with it since the film-makers probably won’t be worried about the discussion guide at the end. Somehow I think they will stick closely to part one and take some wild creative rights with part two to shorten it. If part two had been three chapters shorter, this could have been a wonderful read. Most likely, I’ll be giving it back to the used book store for credit towards something else.
3 out of 5 stars.
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