Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bookshelf: The Lucky One

So my last bookshelf entry was of a really great book. 
This one is about a really predictable book. 

I've read most of Nicholas Sparks' novels and, while I wouldn't classify any of them as Great Literature, they are, for the most part, enjoyable reads. I liked The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, and At First Sight. 

I was maybe 30 pages into The Lucky One before I realized I knew--almost 99%--how this story would end. 

We start with Clayton, a local cop who has a run-in with a hitchhiker, Thibault. Clayton has been spying on some naked co-eds, which Thibault didn't like, and they had words (and Thibault slashed his tires). Clayton is a bit peeved that his voyeurism was ruined. 

We then swtich to Thibault, and his story. He has served three terms in Iraq, and during the first he found a laminated picture of a woman, with "Keep safe!--E" inscrawled on the back. He brings it back to base and puts it on the bulletin board, but no one claims it, so he takes it as his own, keeping it in his pocked. His squad mate, Victor, believes it's lucky after Thibault (whose first name is Jacob) wins at poker after being ridiculously bad previously. 

The picture does indeed seem lucky--he survives 11 bomb explosions, as does Victor--and he comes home to the states, wanting to track down "E". 

The third point of view in the story is Beth. And by this point, it all starts to come together. Beth (Elizabeth--"E") lives with her son, Ben, and her grandmother, and helps her grandmother run a dog training center. They are looking for help, and lo and behold, here comes Thibault with his dog, Zeus, who is, of course, perfectly trained. Thibault knows that Beth is "E" immediately. He gets the job, bonds with Ben and Grandma, and eventually wins Beth's heart. 

Buy guess who Beth's ex is? That's right--Clayton. 

So we have a classic love triangle thing here. Clayton divorced Beth, but he doesn't want anyone else seeing her (he watches her house when she has dates and scares off any potential suitors); Beth loathes her ex and the way he treats Ben, and Thibault loves both Beth and Ben. 

So we can guess where this is going. The only question is--how. 

One of Sparks' stock devises is killing people off at the end instead of actually having the characters behave like adults and resolve their issues with each other. Instead of Beth and Clayton and Thibault discussing the matter and making something realistic happen, one of the men dies. 

The other big problem is the one-dimensional nature of Clayton. There is absolutely no redeeming value in him, no shading, no complexity. He's basically like a permanent 13 year old, who, of course, comes from a very wealthy and influential family that pulls all the strings in town. He has joint custody of Ben but he doens't understand his son at all. In the chapters where we are inside Clayton's head, it's like a very simple, stereotypical rendering of a Southern redneck. As we increase our knowledge of Beth we find it very, very hard to believe that she would ever fall for this guy, even if she was  "nerd" in high school and he wasn't. 

Finally, the whole nature of Thibault and Beth's relationship is just sort of unrealistic. The first time we meet Beth, she's bemoaning the fact that there are no decent, single men in town to her friend Melody. Then--bang--up shows this awesome, handsome, decent guy who loves her son. This happens a lot in his books. 

This book seemed churned out and it's just filled with cliches and gothic influences. Of course the climatic moment of the novel comes during a cataclysmic storm. Of course both men jump in the swollen creek to save Ben, who has fallen from his rickety treehouse. And OF COURSE Beth has nothing but good feelings for Clayton after that. Hello?

Beth is by turns smart and appalling naive. She hates Clayton but then believes him when he says bad things about Thibault. She's just a mess--sort of like the book.  

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