Secret traumas again haunt Sparks's characters, in the author's fourth novel (after The Notebook; Message in a Bottle; A Walk to Remember). Denise Holden, the 29-year-old heroine, is destitute and forced to live in her mother's old house in Edenton, N.C. She's also the single mother of a handicapped child, Kyle, a four-year-old with ""auditory processing problems"" that render him unable to express himself or to fully understand others. Though she doesn't suspect it, Denise is on a literal collision course with true love. After she smashes her car into a tree and wakes up to discover Kyle missing, she finds deliverance in the form of Taylor McAden, dashing firefighter and compulsive risk taker, who rescues Kyle, too. Since Taylor enjoys an instant, unprecedented rapport with Kyle, there is little standing in the way of burgeoning romance. Trouble comes, however, when Denise learns of Taylor's checkered romantic past. Taylor's inability to commit, it seems, is somehow tied to his compulsive heroism, of which numerous histrionic examples are described. Denise's quest to find the source of Taylor's emotional distance takes up the final third of the book. The story here is mostly a pretext for the emotional assault that Sparks delivers, but when he manages to link affect to action, the result is cunningly crafted melodrama. These occasions are rare, though; more often Sparks gets bogged down in interminable interior monologue. Because these characters are preordained lovers, their feelings prescribed by fiction conventions, their psychology amounts to little more than a profusion of banality. Yet Sparks's narrative acquires immediacy when his characters' exaggerated emotions compel immoderate actions, and his readers will surely delight at these moments of heightened expressiveness. 1 million first printing; 24-city author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000 Release date: 09/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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