Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Lucky Option: Nicholas Sparks

"Luck is when preparation meets hard work."

I must have heard that phrase a thousand times.  People use it when they give advice to dreamers and they want to encourage the dreamer that one day their efforts will pay off.  However, the idea that Luck is attached to being ready and diligent is an interesting notion.  Traditionally, luck is seen as a random opportunity that is bestowed upon you by some authority with more power.  What does that have to do with preparation and hard work?

Is Luck when you get something that other people think you may not have deserved but it is just handed to you.  Or, perhaps Luck is when you are preparing just as long and working just as hard as everyone else but You are the one who gets the opportunity that others had always hoped for.

Well I question all of these things as I finish reading the novel The Lucky One by the famed author Nicholas Sparks.

He is the wildly successful author who penned The Notebook, Message In A Bottle, A Walk To Remember, Nights In Rodanthe, Dear John, The Last Song, and several other #1 New York Times Bestselling novels.

When most people think of Sparks, they think of love stories.  Beautiful tales about a man and a woman who meet eachother, fall in love, face turmoil, perservere through it and even though they have had hard times, their love sustains them in the end.

Touching, right?  Sounds like a good theme for a movie, doesn't it?  It has been so far.  The titles that I mentioned have all become film options and have ushered in huge crowds to box offices around the world.   That's why many people think of Nicholas Sparks as being lucky.  How else could a business finance major who once owned a company that produced orthopedic products have such a profitable book franchise and movie making career?

One must admit, his stories are formulaic and in one sentence I have described the essence of 6 past novels that he adapted to make some of the world's favorite romantic movies.

Yet, after reading The Lucky One, I have come to realize that Nicholas Sparks isn't quite as lucky as we think he is.

I know nothing of his hard work (which I can assume he works hard) or his preparation.  What I can tell you is that he is a man who draws on the typical Southern small town lifestyle for inspiration and has a gift for storytelling.

The only other Sparks book I have read was A Walk To Remember.  I love this story.  But, I don't love it beacuse it was a beautiful tale about a man and a woman who meet eachother, fall in love, face turmoil, perservere through it and even though they have had hard times, their love sustains them in the end.

I love it because of a few subtle details which I also recognize in The Lucky One:
- the story is set in a small Southern town
- the courtship of its characters involves the outdoors and picturesque scenery
- the stories involve families, not just the two characters who fall in love
- the antagonist is someone or something that annoys/saddens the reader but is also easy to relate to; there is no true evil force, just an unfortunate circumstance
- **My favorite part** the characters possess a Southern charm; there is no forceful nature to the courtships; it is pure and honest while most contemporary authors have steered clear of this approach 

When I think back on all of Sparks' movies that I have seen, this is what reigns true for each one.  I think that any reader/viewer can enjoy a sappy sweet love story.  But the charm attached to Sparks writing style is what makes these stories so special.

Now that I have read my second Sparks story (the movie adaptation will begin filming in the fall, starring Zac Efron) I no longer see Sparks as The Lucky Option.

Like The Lucky One's protagonist, Thibault, Sparks has a gift but he just knows how to use it better than any one else.  He was destined to be a great author, just as Thibault was destined to carry out his search for the girl in his good-luck-charm-photo that saved his life during the war.

Luck might be the marriage of preparation and hard work for some people.  But for Sparks, it is just a matter of a heartwarmingly wholesome formula that gives people hope and warms their hearts.

I look forward to watching The Lucky One when it is released next year.  I also look forward to reading more of Sparks books.

His new novel, Safe Haven, breaks from his traditional genre.  The thriller will be out in the fall and the movie has already been optioned to be adapted as a film.  I wonder if Nicholas Sparks will receive the same praise for his new take on storytelling.

Leave a comment if you disagree and think that Sparks is The Lucky Option when it comes to adapting films.  Or, leave a comment if you enjoyed some of the commonalities that I was drawn to in his books.

Jessica Ebony


  1. I never knew all those came from one know what else these movies have in common? I haven't seen ANY of them and I don't care to.

    Good for him, though, great success like that is hard to find and sustain!

  2. Haha! Yea thats the one thing about Sparks books, there's really no way to market them to men. Even though I think he does a good job of depicting his male characters, the only side of them that he highlights is the romantic side and most men don't wanna read about that or see it on screen.

  3. I second that Randall...I've never even heard of these books or movies.

    I will say that I believe there is no such thing as luck. LOL

  4. I don't generally believe in luck either, but I always thought luck was the intersection of preparation and opportunity.