Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

October 29, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): 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 even as Katie 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.

Warning: Spoilers below!


  • This was not your typical Sparks novel. The main couple wasn’t all sappy about their love for each other and the domestic abuse angle was far more serious than anything I’d ever read in a Sparks book before. For me, this worked. Maybe some of his longtime fans didn’t like the departure from the usual formula, but I really enjoyed it.
  • Sparks did a good job — at least at first — of building up tension as far as Kevin was concerned. It was obvious from the start that Kevin would find Katie again and that there would be a confrontation. It was just as obvious that she would survive it and get to be with Alex. Nevertheless, I experienced a real sense of dread whenever the scenes cut back to Boston and Kevin. He seemed so brutal and dangerous (again, just at first) that I couldn’t bear the thought of him getting to Katie.
  • I liked Alex and Katie and even the kids because Sparks used some real restraint when describing them and their relationships. Again it wasn’t perfect and saccharine like his usual stuff. Yes, the kids took to Katie a bit too quickly, but still, it wasn’t so much that it felt unrealistic.
  • After all she went through, Katie deserved her happy ending. I’m glad she got it. I like to imagine that Alex’s insurance paid for the fire and they applied for additional small business loans to expand the store and build a bigger house. Maybe they even turned the grill into a full diner so Katie could have something to do too. Whatever they actually did, they’re together with the kids and Katie no longer has to look over her shoulder for Kevin.


  • As I said, at first the parts with Kevin were good. But then, OMG, it got so tiresome and repetitive!!! Always drinking vodka. Always thinking to himself how he was going to be so happy when Erin got home because he loved her, and then how he was going to kill her because he hated her. Always the long sentences connected by “and”, “and”, “and” to show how he wasn’t thinking clearly. Ugh. It got so bad that I just started skimming those parts.
  • The confrontation with Kevin and Erin/Katie turned out to be such a letdown. After building it up for the WHOLE book, I thought there would be more to it. For example, it really surprised me that Kevin set fire to the house first. It seemed to me that he would want to forcefully confront Erin/Katie with his rage, yell at her, hit her, beat her right there in person, not by an “impersonal” fire. Does what I’m saying make sense? I mean, if she had died in the fire, she might not have even known it was Kevin who did it. Surely he would have wanted the satisfaction of her knowing it was him.
  • I hated the way Kevin became little more than a caricature by the end of the book. Most of the way through, he was truly menacing. But then when he was limping around with blood all over him and shards of glass sticking out of his body or whatever, he just seemed like one of those horror movie villains that never die. Cue eye-roll here.
  • The letter from Alex’s dead wife to the new wife was unnecessary. Why does everything in a Sparks novel have to work out so damn PERFECTLY? “Oh, here Katie, you don’t have to worry about taking over my first wife’s place. She wanted me to be happy and find love again. See, she even wrote a letter to my future second wife!” Lord, how ridiculous.
  • Speaking of ridiculous, I was completely and utterly turned off by Sparks’ decision to make Jo not only be a complete figment of Katie’s imagination, but also be the spirit of Alex’s first wife to boot. This supernatural element just really seemed out of place and totally incongruous with the rest of the story. What a strange choice by the author.


Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks has its flaws, and yes, is derivative of other abused women books. Nevertheless, I found it to be a page-turner most of the way (something I never thought I’d say about a Sparks book) and I was actually rooting for the main character to come out on top. If Kevin hadn’t become such a caricature and if Jo hadn’t been a figment of Katie’s imagination, the novel would have been so much better. Despite all this, I still give it 4 stars out of 5 — 3 stars for the story itself, and 1 extra star for Sparks having surprised me by not making this a totally sappy, love-you-and-only-you-til-I-die romance.

2 Responses to “Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks”

  1. […] Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks […]

  2. this is awful

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