Sparks of Love


Anne Michael

I love a good story. I’ve loved a good story since I was a child. While I don’t have memories of my mother reading to me, I’m certain she must have because we had a fair number of books suitable for children around the house, and I am a reader. I remember watching my mother read a book for her own pleasure and being fascinated at the expressions that would run fleetingly across her face—the barest of smiles, the giggles, frowns and sometimes the tears with her hankie clutched in white knuckles as she turned the pages.

These days, I still adore a good story. On a recent plane flight, I started reading Nicholas Sparks’ Nights in Rodanthe. I had not heard anyone talk about the book or read any reviews on it. I was prepared to be disappointed, and not for any reason other than it was a very slim volume. I couldn’t imagine there could be much to the story. It seemed as if it would be light reading. But I had not gotten far into the story, mostly stage setting for what was to come, when a woman of undetermined age, dark-haired, pretty and with dark circles beneath puffy eyes, sat down beside me. A conversation started based on nothing more substantial than a comment about her needing foot room so she could nap a bit. Her name was Nora, she said, after telling me that her mother had died the day before and she was just so tired. I introduced myself and expressed my sympathy. (I understood how difficult a thing it is to lose one’s mother as I’d lost mine ten years earlier.) It may have been that or it may have been the grief that provided the impetus for the telling of her story as she started this part of her solitary journey to take her mother’s body home to Buffalo, New York, for services and burial. Or perhaps it was loneliness. I don’t think I’ll ever know.

I was treated to the story of the memorable last month Nora, her husband and their children had with her mother. They made sure her final days were filled with fun and interesting things to do before the cancer she was diagnosed with a few months earlier took her. Nora’s tale was one of joy and neighbors, friendship and love in the twenty years since she and her family emigrated from Russia. Utopia, Nora still calls the United States, the land where everyone can be what they want and have their own bedrooms, and other rooms that have their own special purpose. She doesn’t understand how people can be depressed in this country. She refused to be depressed about her mother’s death, especially since her mother had enjoyed all the pleasures and opportunities this country had to offer. She was taking her mother home to celebrate the seventy-seven years spent on this earth.

I was moved by her story. The deep joy this woman takes and the obvious richness she finds in everything touched me and made me so very glad for whatever quirk of fate arranged for this chance encounter. Nora needed a listener, and I was happy to oblige.

Later, after I had been home a few hours, had supper, been happily reunited with my family after a week’s absence, I was ready with my husband to settle down into our treasured and comfortable routine, each of us with a dog snuggled up close. Steve watched the annual Barrett Jackson car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona on the tube, and I picked up Nights in Rodanth. This time I could not put it down.

Adrienne Willis, the character around whom Nights in Rodanthe revolves, reminded me of Nora in her strength and determination to survive and live no matter how gutted she felt in heart and soul. I loved how Adrienne quietly celebrated the short time of love she shared with Paul Flanner, no regrets, only joy. The odd thing was that on the surface it seemed to be the story of a great and romantic love with a sad ending. In truth, it was the story of healing of rifts between parents and children, of how little parents and children can know of one another, and of the things that happen when that chasm is crossed. The story was magnificently told in rich detail, but it also left good things for this reader’s imagination to fill in. It did not leave me wanting more or less.

It amazes me how much Sparks can say in such a small number of words. He has an innate ability to capture the intense complexity of the human condition. His story made me glad that Nora had the chance to see her mom home with no regrets for words unsaid and things undone. I feel privileged for having accompanied her for that small space of time. Both Nora and the book brought back nice memories of my mother, and I found myself sobbing through the final pages.

Hopefully, the contrarian in my nature will not in the future make assumptions about a book based on the slimness of the volume. Sometimes, as in this case, the shortest stories can have the largest of impacts. 

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” Contact Anne.



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