On October 16th, Nicholas Sparks released a momentous work as “Every Breath” became his 20th novel released to the masses. It was his 22nd work overall, including a memoir written with his brother Micah, and a non-fiction work co-authored with Billy Mills.
On October 24th, I finished reading my 20th Sparks novel and 21st Sparks work overall (I’m missing only Wokini, the non-fiction work that was actually Sparks’ first release). To say I’m an expert in the works of Nicholas Sparks would be boastful and untrue; however, since I’ve been reading Sparks for over 15 years, I can honestly tell you that while I enjoyed this book, it is certainly not the best we’ve seen from him.
Sparks tries something entirely different from any of his other novels: he bookends the story with a fictional character named…Nicholas Sparks, a writer who happens to come upon the story of Hope Anderson and Tru Walls, and decides he needs to write about it. The average reader who skips the “Acknowledgements” and “Author’s Note” sections will be fooled into believing this was based on a true story, but tucked right at the end, Sparks admits that it’s not.
Sparks is certainly not the first author to attempt this; however, this insertion doesn’t add to the story and the illusion of it being based on true events is whimsical, but also unnecessary. If anything, the attempt takes up valuable pages that could have been devoted to more details regarding Hope and Tru’s story — incidentally, the fictional Sparks says he initially wrote more regarding their story but decided not to include it; this reader wishes that he had.
The love story takes place over two separate time periods, spread 25 years apart. In 1990, two strangers happen to meet because they find themselves visiting neighboring cottages on Sunset Beach. While the harsh critic might say the neighbor angle weakens the power of their love, I prefer to believe that it alludes that love can happen anywhere, at any moment.
Almost immediately, Sparks shows the deep connection developing between the two characters, but also mixes that with the conflict (exes and the long distance, among others) that the reader should expect to rear its head later in the story. And while the initial connection is brief — the characters are only brought together initially for less than 5 days — Sparks again shows, as is a constant theme with his works, that love does not follow a clock, and that a spark between two souls can ignite very quickly.
But once the initial connection ends, the story loses momentum. Sparks struggles to fill in the 25-year gap by telling the reader what happened leading up to the 2016 present time, rather than showing. Time jumping can be an effective narrative as long as the reader is not left questioning what happened in between. I’d have preferred to see chapters devoted strictly to important moments between time frames, rather than learning about them in a conversation between two characters.
The story does eventually regain its momentum, but it is halted once again too soon when the fictional Nicholas Sparks reappears to end the story. As I turned the last page of the story and began reading the Sparks perspective, I thought “Oh, it’s over already? Oh, okay,” secretly disappointed that there would no more pages dedicated to Hope and Tru. Without giving too much away, I certainly felt there was more to say, or more that could be said, rather than abruptly ending the story where it did.
Sparks certainly knows how to carry momentum from beginning to end. And while I prefer a love story that also adds an element of suspense ala Safe Haven, The Lucky One & The Guardian, I enjoy a story that focuses purely on love as well, ala The Notebook, The Choice or Dear John.
Though Every Breath contains the elements Sparks fans have come to know and love, with the tenderness and sweetness only Sparks knows how to write, the story had a hard time holding momentum for me, a quality that is crucial for any reader. Bottom Line: A little more Author Sparks and a little less Fictional Sparks next time.