Why Nicholas Sparks is a Genius
The Lucky One. Grand Central (2008). 326 pp.
In my opinion, Nicholas Sparks is essentially the Thomas Kincaide of literature. The work is quite similar all across the board, the story is always romantic and, for the most part, pleasant, and it warms your heart to read it. It’s often described as “kitsch” and probably for good reason. I remember sitting in Aesthetics class, taking about kitsch, and listening to a few of the other students arguing Kincaide in particular. They didn’t think he was very good. But the more that I thought about it, the more I realized the genius of it all. And, consequently, the same “genius” realization came back to my mind as I was reading The Lucky Ones.
As in every good Sparks story, we start with our man and our woman: in this case Elizabeth “Beth” Green and Logan Thibault (“Tee-bow”). Thibault, as he prefers to be called, is new in town–he walked all the way from Colorado and yes, this is an issue–and carries with him a secret, specifically involving Beth. Of course their is a forbidden-passion element–in the form of Keith Clayton, Beth’s ex-husband and a member of the closest thing to royalty in the small town of Hampton, North Carolina. He’s made it his mission to keep every available suitor away from Beth. Of course he has another vendetta against Thibault, because the story would be otherwise bland. To keep things even more interesting, Beth and Keith have Ben, who is everything Keith does not want in a son and therefore serves as another wedge between Keith and Beth, just wide enough for Thibault to slip in.
Now here’s the genius of it all:
Every single Nicholas Sparks book is essentially the same. Sure, the characters, situations and settings are different (although not so much the settings, North Carolina makes a big presence all around), but the plot line is the same: Guy meets girl, they get to know each other “slowly”–i.e. a weekend or so–they have one spectacular night of passion that is unlike anything either has ever experienced before (Note: this night can, and in many cases should, involve a storm or some other form of natural disaster). After they’ve expressed their undying love for each other, one of the pair will be put in some sort of circumstance that will threaten their relationship. The suspense is high: Will they make it? And then, bam, conclusion.
Of course, sometimes he hits literary gold. Think back to two of his “giants”: A Walk to Remember and The Notebook. In addition to the books, these films are set and ready in the romantic film canon. But think again: do you really remember The Rescue?
Every single book follows along the general structure, and yet each time he puts a new one out it’s gobbled right up. And I’ll admit, I also drink the Kool-Aid from time to time (hence, the post). But it’s hard to take his work with much more than a grain of salt. It’s very easy to see what the dominance is in these stories: the relationship. The characters themselves have little about them that stands separate from the masses. But it’s the relationship, the romance between them, that people remember.