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Love is stronger than fear in Nicholas Sparks’ Christmas novel, “The Wish”

I have always wanted Nicholas Sparks to publish a Christmas story. Christmas is the time for love and miracles and believing in the impossible, in having faith and making things count. And being my favourite romance novelist, I always wanted to see what Sparks would give us at this most touching time of the year.

Now that it’s finally here it is absolutely worth the wait. The Wish is my favourite of Spark’s recent novels. This story is like a cross between A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe, and it completely tugs at the heartstrings. There are no dry eyes come the end of The Wish, let me tell you.

1996 was the year that changed everything for Maggie Dawes. Sent away at sixteen to live with an aunt she barely knew in Ocracoke, a remote village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, she could think only of the friends and family she left behind . . . until she meets Bryce Trickett, one of the few teenagers on the island. Handsome, genuine, and newly admitted to West Point, Bryce gradually shows her how much there is to love about the wind-swept beach town—and introduces her to photography, a passion that will define the rest of her life.

By 2019, Maggie is a renowned travel photographer. She splits her time between running a successful gallery in New York and photographing remote locations around the world. But this year she is unexpectedly grounded over Christmas, struggling to come to terms with a sobering medical diagnosis. Increasingly dependent on a young assistant, she finds herself becoming close to him.

As they count down the last days of the season together, she begins to tell him the story of another Christmas, decades earlier—and the love that set her on a course she never could have imagined.

This time, Sparks really has outdone himself. I cannot sing this book enough praises, it’s beautiful, and powerful and yet utterly heartbreaking at the same time. This heart-wrenching and uplifting story about discovery and loss is a reminder that time with those precious to us is the greatest gift of all.

I was in floods of tears come the end of The Wish. It’s just the kind of story that moves you, and absolutely nothing can prepare you for it’s ending. It’s sad because Maggie is at the final stages of her life due to a particularly ferocious cancer, and in the spirit of the holiday, she opens up to a young colleague Mark, who she begins to get close to and moves her beyond belief.

As she starts to talk about the winter that changed her life, she reminisces about the best Christmas of her life when she fell in love with a young boy and discovered that real love can last forever.

That is one thing I have always loved about Sparks’ novels. In each one of them he shows in different ways the best part of life – the promise that love can last forever if you look after it. That it can transcend time and distance, heartache, broken promises and even death. That when you find the right person, there is absolutely nothing that can stop that love from turning into something wonderful and special. And if you’ve been hurt before, Sparks shows us that it’s because something – or someone – so much better for you is about to come along.

The Wish is no different. I don’t want to give off any spoilers, because it’s even more amazing a book when you don’t see the ending coming and unfolding the way that it does. But the message of hope and love in it is enough to change the minds of even the toughest sceptics.

Let’s talk about the deeper message of The Wish, though, because, for me, here lies the ultimate takeaway from the story.

In this novel, Sparks was trying to show us that love is stronger than fear, and love can save us – the emotion that breaks your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it.

Near the end of the novel, Maggie talks about a time when she and Bryce had an argument over the difference between loving someone and not wanting to lose them, with one side rooting in love and the other in fear.

Sparks wrote:

“You don’t want to lose me,” I said. “That’s not the same thing as wanting to be with me.”
“They mean exactly the same thing,” he protested.
“No, they don’t. Wanting to be with someone is a positive thing. It’s about love and respect and desire. But not wanting to lose someone isn’t about those things. It’s about fear.”

– Nicholas Sparks, The Wish

At the time I pondered it, and agreed with her, but I didn’t realise the bigger impact of the explanation until right at the end of the book when Mark tells Meggie he’s afraid to lose her, too.

Sparks says:

“I am afraid.”
“I know you are.” She reached for my hand; hers was covered in bruises. “But never forget that love is always stronger than fear. Love saved me, and I know it will save you, too.”

– Nicholas Sparks, The Wish

Love is better than fear. Hope is better than anger. Optimism is better than despair. So by being loving, hopeful and optimistic, we can save ourselves.

Love brought Maggie back from the brink and made her believe in miracles again. And no matter how much heartache her time in Ocracoke caused her, she wouldn’t have changed a moment of it to take away the pain.

Like I said, sometimes emotion that breaks your heart is can be the very one that heals it.

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