Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
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When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful, yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.
But as Kate begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her…a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards…and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.
Nicholas Sparks is a bestselling romance author with a dedicated following. Safe Haven is not his latest publication as it was released in 2010, but it has had a resurgence of interest since the book was made into a movie this year.
After suffering years of physical and emotional abuse from her husband, Katie Feldman has managed to escape the marriage with the hope of starting a new life. After bouncing from state to state, she decides to stay awhile along the coast of North Carolina in Southport.
However, Katie is all too aware her stay may only be temporary as she must hide from her unstable police detective husband. Kevin. Although she lives in constant fear of being found, Katie manages to find a job as a waitress and she finds a place to call her own, a small cottage nestled in a secluded part of the town where she can maintain her privacy and heal from her physical and emotional scars.
Katie isn’t looking to make friends or to become a part of the community. Her goal in Southport is to remain as inconspicuous as possible and save money in case she needs to run again. Her isolation is short-lived when Jo moves in next door and slowly eases her way into Katie’s life. Through her caring and supportive nature, she coaxes Katie into revealing bits about her past.
Another Southport resident, Alex, also seems determined to become a part of Katie’s life. Alex is a widower with two small children who owns a country store on the outskirts of town. He cannot help but notice the lovely Katie whenever she stops by the store to shop. Alex is curious about Katie’s skittish nature and evasiveness when he tries to engage her in conversation. He senses Katie wants to be friendly but is too scared to do so. During one of her visits, Katie intervenes when Alex’s son becomes endangered. Her involvement during this crisis causes Alex and his children to reach out to Katie, to encourage her to become a part of their lives.
This is a big step for Alex, since he is only now beginning to consider getting involved with another woman since his wife died. But Alex sees something in Katie, and although he knows she has secrets, he still wants to take a chance with her to see where the relationship will take them.
The pacing of the novel is slow in order to show the development of Katie’s relationship with Alex and his children. As they get to know each other, their mutual attraction grows, and Alex’s children are accepting of Katie, and she comes to care for both them. Yet, Katie is still afraid to become too involved with this family because of the dangers from her past. Early in the relationship, she tells Alex, “…I do want to see you and it scares me because I know deep in my heart that you deserve someone better. You deserve someone you can count on. Someone your kids can count on. Like I said, there are things you don’t know about me.” Katie doesn’t think Alex will want to continue their relationship once he knows the truth, but she believes that Alex deserves to know about her past. The flashbacks to significant episodes in Katie’s marriage describe a vibrant woman who eventually crumbles under the control of a selfish husband who uses criticism and violence to keep his wife submissive. Although, she has been traumatized from the marriage, Katie is a survivor, a strong character who refuses to succumb to a life of pain and loneliness.
To Katie’s surprise, Alex is understanding and even accepting of her situation and vows to keep her secrets in order to keep her safe. Alex is an admirable man who isn’t afraid to put his heart out there for the woman he has grown to love. He is open and honest about his feelings for Katie, which is refreshing.
As predicted, Kevin eventually tracks Katie to Southport, and even as he searches for her specific location, he remains in a perpetual state of drunkenness. His extreme mood swings leave readers wondering whether he will kidnap Katie and bring her home or kill her since she has betrayed him by leaving and being with another man. Throughout, the novel, we get Kevin’s point of view about his marriage to Katie whose birth name is really Erin until she obtains her new identity. Although at times Kevin becomes mournful and cries about losing Erin, it is hard to feel much sympathy for a man who is bullies and physically assaults a woman without accepting responsibility for his actions.
Kevin’s arrival in town builds towards a suspenseful and dramatic climax that impacts the future of Katie and Alex. Just when you think you have the ending figured out Sparks throws you for a loop with neighbor Jo’s role in the story. The ending leaves you reaching for the Kleenex, yet feeling optimistic about rare second chances we may be fortunate to be given in our lifetime.
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Safe Haven Movie Trailer (Movie Released February 2013)
I’m a North Carolina native, and although you might consider me biased, I do believe Southport is a great place to visit and vacation.
Learn more about Southport, North Carolina: Southport
For some great recipes check out the online magazine Our State: North Carolina