Recap: When Amanda and Dawson met in high school, they fell into the most rebellious kind of love. Amanda was from the good side of the tracks, Dawson from the bad. Dawson’s family was full of criminals, and Amanda’s parents wouldn’t have it. Amanda spent all her time with Dawson regardless, but when Amanda goes to college, and Dawson goes through a life-changing event, their relationship fizzles.
Twenty-five years later, they’re both headed to the same funeral in their hometown in North Carolina. Their friend and mentor Tuck has died. Tuck was the man with whom Dawson lived for a while, a man who, — later in life — became close to Amanda. Tuck was the man who allowed the two to spend time together when they were teens. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that they run into each other the weekend of Tuck’s funeral. And yet, the initial shock never wears off after Amanda and Dawson see each other.
It becomes clear to Amanda and Dawson that the love between them is still there. But their lives are not at all what they expected them to be. Amanda is married with a family. Dawson has a dark history that Amanda knows nothing about. Is there room for each other in the present, or is the past the past?
Analysis: If you like Nicholas Sparks books, you can probably guess how The Best of Me ends. Sparks uses the same devices he always does — long-lost love, years go by, love that shouldn’t happen, all set in North Carolina and somehow intertwined with death or illness. So if you like Nicholas Sparks, there’s no reason you won’t like The Best of Me.
Though I’m not the biggest Sparks fan, I somehow end up reading a lot of his books. This one doesn’t quite compare with his others — The Notebook, The Last Song, Nights in Rodanthe. The Best of Me includes a number of characters I didn’t care for, ie Dawson’s brothers. Not to mention, it was hard for me to believe or understand how, after 25 years, Amanda and Dawson could still feel as strongly about each other as they did when they were 16; and that all that love could come back in just the course of a weekend. Books can be romantic, and they can be fantasies. But if Nicholas Sparks is trying to tell a realistic love story, there’s simply too much fantasy here to believe it could happen.
MVP: Tuck. Though he’s only alive for a small portion of the book, he’s the heart of the story, the one who brings Amanda and Dawson together, the one who teaches them, comforts them and loves them more than either of their parents ever did.