Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
Publication Date: September 14th, 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
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.
To be honest, I’ve never read a Nicholas Sparks book before this one. I have seen some of the movie adaptations but never read the source material until now. This is very odd for me since I like to read the book before watching the movie but apparently this ‘rule’ doesn’t apply to Nicholas Sparks for some reason. I’m not really drawn to contemporary literature, there’s something about just following a regular modern person through their day to day life that doesn’t excite me so I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.
I ended up picking up Safe Haven to fulfill a couple of prompts for this years’ The Reading Rush. These prompts were to read a book that inspired a movie that you watched and to read a book from a genre that you don’t normally read (the latter changed phrasing by the time the readathon started but I went with the original). If not for the readathon, I likely would have never picked it up to be honest but I’m actually glad that I did.
Safe Haven in book form far surpasses the movie (I don’t think anyone is really shocked at this lol). The relationships are stronger, the plot is more involved, and there are far more layers to the characters of Katie, Alex and Kevin. I really liked that we got to see the POVs of all 3 of them and how we are introduced to Kevin later on in the book.
Katie’s backstory and her journey that led her to Southport was very well thought out and told to the reader from a series of memories, her character sharing her story with others as well as from another characters POV. It was all done in a way that left anticipation while giving pertinent information but not having a huge info-dump and simultaneously moving the plot along. In addition to all of this, we get a gradual and natural growth of character from Katie which I always appreciate.
The relationships in Safe Haven are varied depending on the person where some are gritty and raw while others are tender and lighthearted and I feel that this book strikes a very good balance between character- and plot-driven story telling. I would just as happily follow Katie through her Southport life and getting to know the people just as much as I enjoyed watching the mystery/action unfold.
Overall I really enjoyed this contemporary read and am interested in venturing out to read some of his other works. I likely won’t read them any time soon but I think if I’m finding myself in the mood for some heartfelt dramatic stories, I will definitely keep them in mind.