"Somewhere," muses Noah Calhoun, while sitting on his porch in the moonight, "there were people making love." The Notebook, a Southern-fried story of love-lost-and-found-again, revolves around a single time-honored romantic dilemma: will beautiful Allison Nelson stay with Mr. Respectability (to whom she happens to be engaged), or will she choose Noah, the romantic rascal she left so many years ago?
With a huge first printing and a major advertising campaign, Warner is clearly hoping that Sparks' first novel will duplicate the success of Robert James Waller's Bridges of Madison County. Written in the opaque language of a fable, the novel opens in a nursing home as 80-year-old Noah Calhoun, "a common man with common thoughts," reads a love story from a notebook; it is his own story. In 1946, Noah, newly returned from the war, is trying to forget a long-ago summer romance with Allie Nelson, the daughter of a powerful businessman. Allie, soon to be married, feels compelled to track Noah down. One steamed-crab dinner and a canoe ride later, they fall madly in love again. We then learn that Noah, now aged and infirm, is reading his notebook to Allie in an attempt to jog her memory, severely impaired by Alzheimer's disease, and, miraculously, he succeeds, much to the amazement of the hospital staff. There is something suspect about a romantic relationship that reaches its acme when one of the partners is in the throes of dementia, but then, this is well within the confines of the romance genre--love conquers all, even Alzheimer's, leaving the medical experts (and this reviewer) confounded. If you want to read a novel in which the romance is grounded in something real, and the magic is truly magical, read the work of Alice Hoffman. If you want to read an upscale Harlequin romance with great crossover appeal, then read The Notebook. Joanne Wilkinson