Friday, December 11, 2009

A Bend In the Road - Critical Monkey Contest Entry #2

A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks

So I was torn by what to read next for my Critical Monkey Challenge, because I am sadly, quite far behind. Is it my fault that I've been assaulted by books that I actually wanted to read!?! Well, I went so far as to purchase a Danielle Steele novel (which will probably be my next entry), but because of time, I chickened out at the last minute and grabbed the much shorter "A Bend in the Road" by Nicholas Sparks.

Nicholas Sparks is not someone whose books ever appealed to me. His particular style of writing always sounded like the books I would never read as a kid. The ones about real people dealing with hard issues. Books about cancer or death, divorce, or eating disorders never appealed to me. Books were a way to escape into different worlds or times, and the idea of reading a book about the girl who loves her boyfriend but he gets killed and she is left alone, never sounded worth reading, unless that boyfriend was killed by a vampire. Seeing other girls at school carrying those books around made me clutch my copy of "Dealing with Dragons" close to my heart. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a good romance. I even smuggled in Harlequin romance novels to read at night (away from the prying eyes of parents), but they were always "Historical Romances" and were set in far away places that took me as far away from "real life" as possible. And mainly, lets be honest here, I read them for the sex scenes (I was 15, after all). And though I have ventured out into more "issue conscious" fiction since High School, "A Bend in the Road" still seemed like a story NOT right up my alley.

The plot is relatively simple: Centering around a man, Miles, whose wife, Missy, died in a hit and run car accident 2 years before, Miles works as a sheriff in this small town (of course), but was never able to find the driver of the car. He has been struggling to keep going and raise his son, Jonah, until he meets, Sarah Andrews who brings new life and love to he and Jonah. But (SPOILER ALERT) when Sarah's brother comes forward with new information regarding Missy's death, Sarah and Mile's love and relationship are threatened.

My Thoughts: Okay, judging by my description, you can tell I wasn't all that thrilled with the book, and I think the reason I keep going back to the books I read in high school is because I feel like this is exactly the book that the other girls used to read. The wording, sentence structures, and frequent cliches, make it seem like it was a book written for teenagers or tweens. Maybe that's just the mass market appeal structure I'm seeing, but I felt like I was reading a "dumbed down" style of writing. Damn, now I feel all pretentious, but I guess that's what comes from reading this book. Sigh.

Part of what really bugged me, aside from the writing, was the immense amount of characters "doing the right thing." When Sarah was hiding something about her past from Miles, she hesitated, looked distraught, then "told him the whole story." When Miles isn't sure he should open up about his feelings for Missy and what her death meant to him, he stops then tells Sarah "the whole story." On and on in this book, people are telling each other "everything."

Is this a cheap cop-out Mr. Sparks? Did you just get tired of writing and decide to use this phrase every time!!?!?

Okay, sorry about that, back to the review.

But aside from the massive amount of "I Statements" and "doing the right thing," all of the sudden, Miles, when he finds out who the "mystery driver, really is, turns into a Crazed Widower Bent on Revenge! Nothing can stop his rage and fury. I half expected him to rip off his shirt, turn green and shout "Hulk Angry!"

Unfortunately for the reader, he doesn't, so it just feels totally weird, and frankly some of the things he did really cheesed me off, including the part when he yelled at Sarah and roughed up some people that didn't need to be roughed up. When he finally does calm down enough to return to Human form though, everyone seems to automatically forgive him, and through some long talks and "sharing of feelings" it all works out in the end.

And one more thing, did you know that Nicholas Spark's sex scenes pretty much sound like this:

"Then they made love the whole night."

That's it. More of that descriptive language at work, eh Nick? At one point I completely missed the fact that the characters had even had sex. It went from, "he placed a kiss on her lips," to, "they woke up next to each other." What the Hey!? I had to go back, and find the tiny sentence of "and then they made love all night,” wedged in there.


My overall opinion of the book isn't too high, if you could tell. I feel like I should make a t-shirt that says "I read a Nicholas Sparks book and all I got was this crappy t-shirt, which I had to make myself." Oh well, at least I get to cross another entry off my Critical Monkey contest now. :-)


Jeanne said...

This pretty much confirms everything I suspected about books by Sparks. Thanks for the details--your suffering was not in vain.

"Then they read books all night."

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Corey Redekop said...

I was thinking of doing a Sparks, but I belive you've cured me of the urge. Thanks!

B Fuhr said...

But yet you liked Twilight... hmm.

Scrat said...

I have to agree with your assessment of Nicolas Sparks -- a big cliche yawn!!!