A love story tangled with mystery

The Return by Nicholas Sparks

Title: The Return
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Category: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
ISB Code: 9780751567809
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group Limited
Publication Year: 2020
Price: RM79.90

Nicholas Sparks’ ‘The Return’ is another love story tangled with mystery, something that the author is best known for. He is one of the most celebrated authors in recent times and has written over 20 books with some turned into blockbuster movies such as ‘A Walk to Remember’, ‘The Notebook’, ‘The Lucky One’ and ‘Dear John’.

Trevor Benson was serving in Afghanistan as an orthopaedic surgeon, but he was forced to return to New Bern in North Carolina after he sustained injuries following a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked.

Upon his return in New Bern, Trevor decided to stay at the dilapidated cabin he inherited from his grandfather, a beekeeper who died due to a mysterious trip to North Georgia.

Although it was not part of his plan, Trevor thought that his grandfather’s cabin would be a good place to recuperate himself, heal from the devastating injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The property was a shade over six acres with a tilting barn and a honey shed. During the summertime, the property would resemble a ground-level firework display as it was situated on Brices Creek where dark and brackish water would reflect the sky like a mirror, sunsets turned the turned into a cacophony of burgundy, red, orange and yellow while the fading rays would often pierce the curtain of Spanish moss draped over the tree branches.

Trevor had a close relationship with his grandfather as he vividly recalled spending most of his summers growing up in New Bern and reminisced on nostalgic memories.

Besides spending his time making the cabin liveable, Trevor also tended to the 20 beehives. The character Callie, a 17-year-old girl was soon introduced, and he discovered that she was once friends with his grandfather.

With hopes of discovering the truth behind the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, Trevor befriended Callie, but she only offers a few clues until a crisis triggered a race that ultimately uncovers the true nature of her past. A past that Trevor could have never anticipated and one that is intertwined with the elderly man’s passing.

In the beginning of the book, Trevor made notes of several questions that he did not managed to get answers from his grandfather. Despite being able to be by his grandfather’s side prior to his death, the stroke which Trevor’s grandfather suffered hindered the ability for him to speak properly and left him with little time. The circumstances leading to his death was a huge mystery for Trevor and it was one that he wishes to solve.

Meanwhile, due to his short-lived career as an orthopaedic surgeon, Trevor also embarked on a journey to become a psychiatrist despite his PTSD. Given that the incident caused Trevor to physically lose his ring and pinkie finger on his left hand as well as his left ear, he could not go back to his original career.

The author sheds light on this mental illness through Trevor’s experience in which his psychiatrist would use flowery language like turmoil, issues, struggle, the butterfly effect, emotion dsyregulation and The Darkness to describe PTSD. Raw emotions and thoughts as well as symptoms faced by those who suffer from this illness are illustrated through Trevor’s frustration and in denial.

The twist that makes it a classic Sparks love story is that Trevor falls in love with the deputy sheriff, Natalie Masterson whereby he felt a connection with her from their very first encounter.

Even though Natalie’s married, Trevor believes that she reciprocates his feelings, but she remains distant and this makes Trevor wonder what she is hiding.

While some may argue that ‘The Return’ is not as captivating as the other books that Sparks has produced, there are those who say that it is a book that can get new readers to be entranced with his works.

This book covers a wide range of topics of interest such as soldiers who have returned from war, PTSD, the art of apiculture, runaway teens, a mysterious death to solve, confusing letters, a potential lover, a tragic illness, a heartbreaking loss and career choices to make. Each and every strand of this is delivered with intense emotions, illustrating Sparks’ capabilities and versatilities as a writer.

Overall, it is book that will surely keep you at the edge of your seat. Despite the shortage of high fuel romance if compared to ‘The Notebook’ and ‘A Walk to Remember’, ‘The Return’ still depicts how the road to true love and happiness is marred by tragedies, setbacks, personal baggage, life decisions and heart-breaking obstacles in true Sparks style.