26 April 2016

A Review of "SAFE HAVEN" by Nicholas Sparks

Title: Safe Haven
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Pages: 405
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Edition: First International Edition, September 2010
ISBN: 978-0-446-54757-4
Price: $7.99 U.S./$8.99 CAN
When I was wandering through aisles between American Corner stacks in the central library of Gadjah Mada University (FYI, it has many collections of foreign novels—even more than local ones), I didn’t know exactly which books I wanted to borrow. Then, an author name drew my attention: Nicholas Sparks; it was written on the front cover of a novel entitled “Safe Haven”. The name was familiar to me, but I forgot where and when. Reading the sinopsis written on the back cover made me wanted to bring the novel home. Yeah, just because of the first sentence of the sinopsis, “When a mysterious young woman named Katie…”. I love mysteries, haha. And after scanned the testimonies on the first pages, after I knew that this was the author of a couple of romantic novels adapted into movies I’d watched (maybe because of that his name was familiar to me)—A Walk to Remember and The Last Song, I’d made decision to borrow it.
“I just want a place where I could start over.” – Katie (p. 13)
Katie was a pretty young woman that lived in a small town, Southport, in the North Carolina. She lived in a shabby cottage with no neighbors and was a waitress at a restaurant called Ivan’s. She has no real friends, and when a young woman called Jo moved in the next cottage, Katie was drawn into something like friendship with her. And then, a series of events made her became close with Kristen, a five-year-old girls, a daughter of the widower store owner. In the other hand, the store owner, Alex, had been interested in Katie, became curious of who she is actually.
“He (Alex) was lonely, even though it bothered him to admit it.” (p. 21)
Then, a relationship grew between Katie and Alex, close enough to make Katie was able to tell him about the past that was always she avoided to remember or to tell to anyone. The past, when Katie was not Katie, but Erin, a wife of a detective named Kevin Tierney, and they lived in a house in Dorchester. Actually, Katie was now always trying to avoid any relationship because of her trauma caused by Kevin. He didn’t let her had any friends, or had relationship at all. When he left for work, he always call home to make sure that Erin was at home. If Erin made him angry—though objectively Erin did no wrong—he will hit and beat her. After that, he will make apology and say that he won’t do that again. But, yeah, he did it again and again, until Erin decided to run away from the house, from Dorchester. She had try to run away before, but always failed. This time, she prepared well enough so as Kevin realized she had escaped for a few days before.

Erin had gone for 6 months, and Kevin had not give up yet. He kept looking for Erin’s traces, and when he found her, he will do something terrible. Moreover if he knew that there was a man beside her, Alex, he could do harm to Alex and his children.
Firstly, I presumed that this novel is just a romantic novel, with a couple of character that fit together—Katie, the mysterious woman, and Alex, the perfect man, either as a dad or a guy. The author wrote about safety, trust, and relationship beautifully. How the pessimistic Katie could trust someone finally. How Alex could find a true love once again. But, when the character Kevin came up, I began to sense some suspenses that drive me annoyed. I realized that the author brought the domestic abuse issue up. Obviously, I was annoyed by the ways Kevin think. It was pitiful that despite his violent behavior and his incessant drinking, Kevin quotes the Bible constantly and takes the Ten Commandments seriously. He think that he was the only one who work really hard to earn money to buy his wife house, buy kitchen equipments, furniture, to pay for her hair-do, her shopping. He think that Erin was selfish enough to “make him so angry because she didn’t understand how easy her life was” (p. 226).

It was nice that the author wrote a portion of the book from Kevin’s perspective, so that I could understand the reasons why Kevin do such bad things to his wife that he loved. Yeah, he loved Erin, but his behavior didn’t reflect that love. It was ironic, just like what St. Paul said on his letter to Rome: “… On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET.’” (Rome 7:7). I learned that Kevin had a misconception about Bible and Ten Commandments. Once he thought that he was the most right person in the world, he acted as if he was the god of people around him and thought that the people were always wrong. He liked to judge other people without took a closer look to himself. I doubted that he’d ever known the meaning of this verse: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matt 7:3).

The problem with Kevin was that he loved Erin insinceredly—or that love wasn’t the real love. If he was sincere, then it wasn’t matter how hard he work, so long as his wife was happy. He was too focused to himself, didn’t try to care about his wife’s feeling. After I understood his way of thinking, I had a symphaty for him, that he was just a pitiful man whose eyes and heart needed to be opened.
Conversely, I loved the character of Alex. How could it be in this world such good guy like him? The coolest part of him was, in my opinion, his acceptance of Carly’s (his late wife) death that turned him into a good daddy for Kristen and Josh.
“I’m not sure anyone’s life turns out exactly the way they imagine. All we can do is to try to make the best of it.” – Alex (p. 235)
And, according to Jo’s opinion, “… acceptance helps people move on with the rest of their lives…” (p. 41).
I also loved the character of Katie. She wasn’t a cliché protagonist character of a weak woman who couldn’t escape from her hardships. No, she was a strong and smart woman, smart enough so that she could trick Kevin. And Kristen was the first person who could melt her heart.
“Little girls. They could melt the toughest hearts.” (p. 28)
The relationship that grew between Katie and Kristen drew Katie and Alex closer. Beside that, Katie also thought that somehow, Alex resemble herself.
“There was a loneliness within him that he couldn’t disguise, and she knew in some way it matched her own.” (p. 85)
Then, about the relationship between Jo and Katie… At first, Katie didn’t open to Jo, but slowly, because of Jo’s personality—friendly, and somehow understood Katie more than the other did, because of her job as a grief counselor—Katie considered Jo as her friend. Jo also gave Katie advice about her relationship with Alex. Jo’s opinion was all true, but it was just difficult for Katie to admit it.
 “I just tell people what they already know, but are afraid to admit to themselves.” – Jo (p. 45)
I liked the way the author gave the readers a little by little suspense, amid the romantic story of Alex and Katie and the children. I just couldn’t let go of the book when it came to the thriller made by Kevin’s still hunt of Erin. It was really lively and full of action, I couldn’t even blinked my eyes. Okay, it sounded that I exaggerated, but it was true. Uh-oh. I also loved the relationship between Alex and his children. It was so delightful! Yeah, just because my relationship with my father wasn’t as delightful as that.

About the domestic abuse that Katie had experienced, it made me feel a little bit anxious of my own domesticity, next time in the future. No woman wanted to have a husband like Kevin. Instead, most woman wanted guy like Alex to be their husband. Surely, the gender equivalence must be maintained by either man or woman.

But, in the end of the novel I felt that something was not on its place. About the alter ego that Katie had created, why could she resembles Alex’s late wife? Even, their names were the same?
“My name, as you probably know, is Carly, but for most of my life, my friends called me Jo…” (p. 376)
At last, I wanted to say that Nicholas Sparks had became one of my favorite male authors ^^.

Four stars for Safe Haven.

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