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The Return


The Return

Nicholas Sparks is known for his romantic, heart-tugging stories. THE RETURN, his latest novel, is no exception.

Trevor Benson was an orthopedic surgeon until a tour in Afghanistan resulted in his losing several fingers due to an explosion that also left him with PTSD. Now he is traveling to his late grandfather’s place in a rural area of North Carolina. The town of New Bern is a small one, and Trevor spends time on his grandfather’s homemade boat on the creek behind the house, tending to the beehives and talking to his therapist about his progress.

The novel reads as if Trevor is sharing a story with us over a cup of coffee at Slow Jim’s Trading Post, New Bern’s local general store/gas station/grill. It begins in 2019, at a wedding in New Bern, but quickly flashes back to 2014, when he returns to town six months after his grandfather’s death.

"Keep Trevor company as he navigates mysteries and spends time recovering from his personal demons.... THE RETURN would make for a perfect beach read or a fall/winter sitting-by-the-fire read."

Trevor first meets Callie, an easily startled, fragile-looking teenage girl who lives up the road, when he is shaking out mothballs trying to keep a snake away from his porch. After offering details about the house, its defects and its charms, he tells us, “For now, though, let’s get back to the snake.” This at-times self-deprecating narrative helps us understand that Trevor is pretty lonely. So when he meets and is immediately attracted to a sheriff’s deputy, he ardently pursues her, much to her discomfort.

Natalie Masterson is everything that Trevor wants in a woman. Within two weeks, he tells her that he loves her, which to some will seem a tad unlikely. She reciprocates, but her reticence leads him to believe that there is a problem in her life.

A number of questions arise from this series of events. Who is Callie, and why is she so scared and reluctant to talk? Does she know information that would help Trevor unravel the mystery of why his grandfather was on a road trip to another state when he died? Why is Natalie so unwilling to let the people in town know that she and Trevor are seeing each other? Who broke the back door of the house and stayed there, yet stole nothing, before Trevor moved in?

Those who are interested in CBT and DBT --- cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies dealing with PTSD --- will appreciate how Sparks, through Trevor’s actions and internal monologues, explains the lifestyle of people who undergo these treatments. The author also shares much about beekeeping, and the thought of the delicious honey resulting from those efforts might entice readers to look into that hobby.

Take a trip to rural North Carolina, sit back and enjoy the lush descriptions of the rambling creek and croaking frogs. Beautiful sunsets, meandering boat trips, exotic wildlife, buzzing bees and small-town farmers’ markets abound. Keep Trevor company as he navigates mysteries and spends time recovering from his personal demons.

The conclusion brings us back to 2019, and we see all the loose ends neatly tied up. THE RETURN would make for a perfect beach read or a fall/winter sitting-by-the-fire read.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on October 2, 2020

The Return
by Nicholas Sparks

  • Publication Date: August 10, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538728583
  • ISBN-13: 9781538728581