July 26, 2012

The Best of Me

Dawson comes from a family seeped in alcohol, crime, jail, abuse and more than one murder.  Dawson has always been smarter then his cousins' and his father though, and he doesn't want to follow in the family line - a choice that could easily put his life in jeopardy.  Amanda is from a well off, scandal free, proper southern home.  Amanda too, is different, and on more than one occasion clashes with her mother by doing the exact opposite of what is required of her.  Amanda and Dawson meet and fall in love, and an old man named Tuck who has given Dawson shelter and a home away from his family, shelters and protects their romance.

Then Amanda leaves the little North Carolina town they grew up in at Dawson's insistence that she follow her dream of college and find the life that he knows he can never give her.  She leaves, and Dawson ends up spending four years in jail after he hits and kills the town doctor while driving home.  It was an accident, but he plead guilty and left his town behind him.  Amanda gets married and has a family; Dawson gets out of jail, moves to Louisiana, stays single and they never see each other again... until years later when Tuck dies and his lawyer passes on Tuck's request that the two of them come back home.

This novel is not what you expect it to be.  Your expectation is that it's going to be a classic angsty romantic book... teenage love, separation, years later the lovers are reunited and despite all odds and all their doubts and questions they decide they never should have given each other up, say good-bye to the lives they've created since then and get together for happily ever after.

Such is not the case.  The Best of Me does follow a fairly predictable route as Amanda and Dawson reunite at the scene of their old sanctuary and discover that they still love each other very much.  Amanda's marriage is falling apart because of her husband's alcoholism and you know it's only a matter of time before the two of them decide they can't live without each other and Amanda gives up her life to go and live with her one true love.

But then Amanda drives away, and bad things start to happen.  As you read you are thinking that it's all going to get resolved - and oh look, here is a way for Amanda and Dawson to be together without her getting a divorce and you are disappointed because this is the easy way out.  Then things twist again and you realize that this isn't going to be a happy ending that you want.  This isn't going to end the way romance novels are supposed to end.

I picked up this novel expecting it to be like most other Nicholas Sparks books - sweet, touching, dramatic, plenty of obstacles and trials for the romantic interests, but in the end they live happily ever after.  When I realized the path the things were taking, I had to put the book down for a few minutes because I wanted to be wrong.  I continued to read, and I was right... and it was happy, in a very sad and bittersweet way, and it was worth it.  The Best of Me was a beautiful story about love, real love, and one that I'm sure I will return to read again someday.

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