• Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

      How can you disappear in plain sight? Apparently Katie Feldman has figured it out, escaping an abusive marriage in Boston and reinventing herself as a waitress in a small coastal North Carolina town. She tries to keep to herself and avoid personal contact outside of work, but with her physical beauty and inherent kind and loving nature, that is impossible. She soon develops friendships with her neighbor, Jo, and with the children of the man who runs the general store where she buys her food. The friendship with the children leads to an attraction to their widowed father, Alex, and Katie's best efforts to remain aloof and unattached are overcome. Although she doesn't at first confide in him or in Jo, she eventually tells them of her escape from Kevin, her controlling and violent husband, a Boston police officer. While Katie builds a new life in Southport with Alex and the children, Kevin relentlessly pursues her, using his police contacts to uncover her meticulously covered tracks. An unforeseen twist at the book's conclusion makes this a story that will haunt even the most cynical. Romantics will be toast.

      Nicholas Sparks is such a gifted storyteller, and this book is another triumph for him. One of things that makes this such a powerful addition to his collection is his development of the flawed character of Kevin, the abusive husband. Kevin's behavior due to his control issues, while reprehensible, is almost understandable, thanks to Sparks' comprehensive description of the mental illness that drives him. As usual in Sparks' books, the plot is carefully constructed and engrossing, but Safe Haven includes instances of suspense and terror that become particularly jarring and gripping in the bucolic setting.

      Taken as pure entertainment value, Safe Haven is an immensely satisfying audio book. However it may have another application as a social commentary on the cause, prevention and impact of spousal abuse. This book may even serve as encouragement for women who are in abusive relationships and are looking at methods of escape. By studying the steps Katie took to avoid detection, women may feel empowered to leave. Alex's previous professional experience with abusive relationships allows him to recognize the symptoms in Katie and his discussion of the general resources available in communities may encourage women to explore their options. Highly recommend for information, insight and entertainment.

      Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
      Read by Rebecca Lowman
      Hachette Audio, unabridged: 11 hours