Nicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most cherished and beloved storytellers. All his books have been New York Times bestsellers, and with over 105 million copies sold worldwide, Sparks is known as the king of romance, the messenger of love and the conveyor of hope.
However, his latest novel, The Return, is less about romantic love as it is about courage and forgiveness. With this story, Sparks presents to us a way to help heal a damaged, unjust, and sometimes cruel world, one heart at a time.
In the romantic tradition of Dear John and The Lucky One, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with the story of an injured Navy doctor — and two women whose secrets will change the course of his life.
Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, NC. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.
Tending to his grandfather’s beloved bee hives while gearing up for a second stint in medical school, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . and yet, from their very first encounter, his connection with Natalie Masterson can’t be ignored. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.
Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road from his grandfather’s cabin. Claiming to be 19, she works at the local sundries store and keeps to herself. When he discovers she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues — until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could ever have anticipated.
In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.
When I read about The Return, I expected the kind of gripping love story that we got in Dear John and The Lucky One. In that way I was slightly disappointed because I didn’t really feel like this story gave us that. But then I also have to consider that Sparks wrote Dear John and The Lucky One twelve to fourteen years ago. Of course, his writing style will have changed slightly over the years. We’re not going to get these same kinds of stories now.
I’ve previously wrote about how Sparks’ style and stories have changed slightly after his divorce, and how his novels now have a different feel to them than his greats – I do think he deserves credit for branching out and trying something new, but I was sceptical about his new angle on relationships, rather than couples falling in love. I loved Sparks stories so much because of their hopefulness and the epicness in the love between these characters, especially since I am a hopeless romantic, so it kind of felt like if the world’s most beloved storyteller had lost faith in that kind of love, how could the rest of us keep believing in it?
The Return, however, is one of his moving stories yet. It may not be an out-of-this-world love story, but it is a poignant, powerful one with a much more important lesson.
The world can seem like an unfair, unjust and sometime cruel place, and even the strongest among us will be tested and be dealt a tough hand that we don’t deserve. And although we sometimes feel alone in this aspect, Sparks reminds us that this isn’t a personal issue where we’re the only ones who are hard done by. But rather a universal one, where millions of people all over the world feel exactly the same way we do, and, in some way, we know we are not alone.
In The Return, Sparks shows that people are complex and imperfect creatures, and life’s twists and turns are impossible to predict. And tragedies can happen to the best of us. But the main lesson is that despite everything, we need to forgive. Others, for their wrongdoings, and ourselves, because we can be our own worst enemies.
“Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget, or you stop wishing that you can change the past. Mainly it means that you accept the idea that you’re not perfect, because no one is perfect. And terrible things can happen to anyone.”– Nicholas Sparks, The Return
Each one of the characters we meet are battling their own demons in their own personal hell fuelled with self-loathing and guilt. So what might at first appear to be a story of a cruel world, Sparks presents a way for us to heal it. Through forgiveness, love, human decency and most of all, compassion and understanding, he makes us see how things can be made better and good again, because we are never fighting our battles alone and someone always cares.
He shows us that it’s never too late to hope for a better tomorrow, or even, at least, to hope that s a small shred of forgiveness could mend some of the brokenness in the world.