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It’s possible to move forward in life, no matter how terrible your grief, in Nicholas Sparks’ “Message in a Bottle”

We live in a cynical world. A brutal, cynical world where the people we love can be ripped from our lives at any moment, for no reason and with no explanation. It’s tough, and in the face of all we can lose in a day, it’s a wonder how we can even hold it together, or how we haven’t dropped all of our ideals.

Yet we hold on to them, because I think people want to believe, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the world is pure at heart.

Nicholas Sparks’ novel Message in a Bottle is a testament to that. It is a story that, I think, will be meaningful to a lot of people. In today’s world where people are so busy or so cynical that romance seems to be slowly dying out, this story shows us that it is still possible.

Thrown to the waves, and to fate, the bottle could have ended up anywhere. Instead, it is found just three weeks after it begins its journey. Theresa Osborne, divorced and the mother of a twelve-year-old son, picks it up during a seaside vacation from her job as a Boston newspaper columnist. Inside is a letter that opens with:

My Dearest Catherine, I miss you my darling, as I always do, but today is particularly hard because the ocean has been singing to me, and the song is that of our life together…

For “Garrett,” the man who signs the letter, the message is the only way he knows to express his undying love for a woman he has lost. For Theresa, wary of romance since her husband shattered her trust, the message raises questions that intrigue her. Who are Garrett and Catherine? Where is he now? What is his story?

Challenged by the mystery, and pulled to find Garrett by emotions she does not fully understand, Theresa begins a search that takes her to a sunlit coastal town and an unexpected confrontation. Brought together by chance-or something more powerful-Theresa and Garrett are people whose lives are about to touch for a purpose, in a tale that resonates with our deepest hopes for finding that special someone and everlasting love.


A lot of people who have loved and lost will either tell you that they never want to love again, or they believe that they can never love again, at least, not in the overwhelming, heart soaring, beautiful way they did the first time.

The message of Sparks’ novel reminds me of a story I heard a while back… A woman who made mistakes in her marriage and caused it to end believes she has had the great love in her life. She believes that she wouldn’t again have anything ‘real’, the she had it but messed it up. Until she comes across an 85-year-old man who was about to propose to the woman he was madly in love with on the same cruise which he met her on three years prior. To her, this was proof that there is always more love out there.

Similarly, Message in a Bottle carries this message.

Garret is a man left heartbroken after the love of his life, Catherine, is ripped unceremoniously from his world and since believes that he can never be happy with someone else. But after some time he learns that it’s okay to let go and find someone else.

Sparks writes:

“And if you think that you’re showing your love to Catherine by suffering the way you’ve been doing, then somewhere along the way, I must have messed up in raising you.”
“You didn’t mess up….”
“I must have. Because when I look at you, I see myself, and to be honest, I’d rather see someone different. I’d like to see someone who learned that it’s okay to go on, that it’s okay to find someone that can make you happy. But right now, it’s like I’m looking in the mirror and seeing myself twenty years ago.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle

Through exploring the heartbreaking fragility and enormous strength of love in Message in a Bottle, Sparks teaches us that in life, the loves we lose may well be the One. And, yes, they will always be an epic love. But contrary to popular belief there are actually multiple Ones, and the only way to find another is to let go and move on.

“Sometimes my grief is overwhelming, and even though I understand that we will never see each other again, there is a part of me that wants to hold on to you forever. It would be easy for me to do that because loving someone else might diminish my memories of you. Yet, this is the paradox: Even though I miss you greatly, it’s because of you that I don’t dread the future. Because you were able to fall in love with me, you have given me hope, my darling. You taught me that it’s possible to move forward in life, no matter how terrible your grief. And in your own way, you’ve made me believe that true love cannot be denied.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle

Because, no matter what we believe, the truth is…

“Someday you’ll find someone special again. People who’ve been in love once usually do. It’s in their nature.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle

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