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Goodreads⎮Reviewed Sep. 2018
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 11 hours 2 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2010
Synopsis: 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.
4.25★ Audiobook⎮Despite having sworn him off multiple times, I usually to listen to Nicholas Sparks about once a year. This year, I somewhat indiscriminately chose Safe Haven as I was frantically downloading audiobooks in anticipation of the power outage hurricane Florence would bring. Hurricanes are an inevitable part of life when you live in eastern North Carolina and something about it just made me want to hear a Nicholas Sparks book.
Sparks sets all of his books in eastern North Carolina, usually around New Bern. Safe Haven, however, was set in Southport, near Wilmington. But that wasn’t the only thing unusual about Safe Haven. From the very beginning, Safe Haven had a slightly different vibe from Sparks’ other works. Each of his books is unique enough that I wouldn’t dare cry monotony, yet they all have similar undertones. This one, less so.
To my knowledge, I don’t think Sparks has ever dealt with domestic abuse in one of his books and that was a heavy theme in Safe Haven. It wasn’t necessarily graphic, especially in comparison to others I’ve heard, but I still found it a little hard to hear at times. Sparks has a way of emotionally tying you to his characters, so much so that if one of them even gets a paper cut, you involuntarily empathize. Therefore, he did not have to be unnecessarily detailed or graphic about the abuse in order to have it hit home.
In comparison with his other titles, Safe Haven isn’t my favorite. I felt like I spent the entire time feeling guarded, waiting for the emotional hammer fall. Sparks is notorious for manipulating his readers’/listeners’ emotions and he has broken my heart on more than one occasion (i.e. The Best of Me). So, naturally, I approached Safe Haven with caution. It may have been because of that caution, but Safe Haven felt just a little more shallow than what I’m used to from Sparks. Which, by the way, is not exactly a criticism. In comparison to other authors’ work, the depth of Safe Haven is to be exalted. Sparks is a tremendous writer and he absolutely excels at character development.
But I just didn’t fully click with the characters in Safe Haven, probably due to my own trepidation. But, domestic violence aside, Safe Haven was extremely easy to hear. Sparks stands out in my mind as someone who writes beautifully, yet understandably. He doesn’t need verbal garnishes. His storylines are easy to follow along with and can be heard a while doing almost anything. In other words, they don’t require a lot of mental focus to follow. There’s never a “Wait, what’s going on?” moment, much less a “What the hell is happening now?!” moment. He simply takes the listener by the hand and guides them every step of the way.
Based on this listening experience alone, I’m definitely more inclined to hear Sparks again, maybe sooner rather than later.
Narration review: Now that I think about it, it’s possible that my selection of Safe Haven wasn’t as indiscriminate as I thought. As I was quickly scanning the Nicholas Sparks titles available on Scribd, Rebecca Lowman’s name caught my eye. I remembered how much I enjoyed her narration of Eleanor & Park and knew that, as a narrator, she would be a “sure thing”.
I couldn’t have been more right. I enjoyed Lowman’s narration just as much as I did when I first heard her two years ago. Her character distinctions were subtle, but perfectly effective. She fully embodied each character, sending messages about emotions and personality with each intonation. I look forward to the next time I hear her work. ♣︎