The Notebook (1996) by Nicholas Sparks tells of the love story spanning decades between Allison “Allie” Nelson and Noah Taylor Calhoun.
The narrative frequently switches among three points of view (POV): Noah, Allie, and Lon. Noah and Allie are the primary love interests of the 213-page compact book, producing a mere 48,978 words, confirmed by author Nicholas Sparks, who explains:
“The first draft was approximately 80,000 words, and I began cutting the story down, doing my best to make it as efficient as possible. That took another couple of months. The final version was approximately 47,000 words.”
The story’s complication comes when Allie, who is engaged to marry attorney Lon Hammond in Raleigh, North Carolina (p 20), takes a trip to New Bern to visit Noah, who has survived World War II and returns home to renovate his house on Brices Creek (pgs 1, 22).
Chapter 1 = “Miracles” = pgs 2-5 = POV Noah
Chapter 2 = “Ghosts” = pgs 7-36 = POV Allie & Noah
Chapter 3 = “Reunion” = pgs 37-78 = POV Allie & Noah
Chapter 4 = “Phone Calls” = pgs 79-84 = POV Lon
Chapter 5 = “Kayaks and Forgotten Dreams” = pgs 85-96 = POV Allie & Noah
Chapter 6 = “Moving Water” = pgs 97-106 = POV Allie & Noah
Chapter 7 = “Swans and Storms” = pgs 107-127 = POV Allie & Noah
Chapter 8 = “Courtrooms” = pgs 129-130 = POV Lon
Chapter 9 = “An Unexpected Visitor” = pgs 131-137 = POV Allie & Noah
Chapter 10 = “Crossroads” = pgs 139-145 = POV Allie & Noah
Chapter 11 = “A Letter from Yesterday” = pgs 147-151 = POV Allie
Chapter 12 = “Winter for Two” = pgs 153-213 = POV Noah
Now an old man living at Creekside Extended Care Facility (p 161), the story is told through Noah’s reflections and reminisces (both spoken and written, hence the “notebook”) of his love story with Allie. He has learned a great deal about love and loss and about growing old.
Noah reflects: “We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken us a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox” (p 179).
An Unforgettable Summer
In 1932 during the Neuse River Festival, Noah and Allie met and soon became inseparable. Sixteen-years-old, Noah enjoyed reading poetry from Whitman and Tennyson and roaming the countryside while Allie was a big city-girl from Winston-Salem (p 25) who was foreign to small-town life.
“Because she was a newcomer and hadn’t spent time in a small town before, they spent their days doing things that were completely new to her. He taught her how to bait a line and fish the shallows for largemouth bass and took her exploring through the backwoods of the Croatan Forest. They rode in canoes and watched the summer thunderstorms, and to him it seemed as though they’d always known each other” (p 13).
As the summer came to an end, Allie had to leave New Bern and Noah behind. But his love for her continued. Refusing to give up hope, Noah proceeded to write and post letters to Allie for the next several years.
“He explored the Croatan Forest in his first canoe, following Brices Creek for twenty miles until he could go no farther, then hiked the remaining miles to the coast. Camping and exploring became his passion, and he spent hours in the forest, sitting beneath blackjack oak trees, whistling quietly, and playing his guitar for beavers and geese and wild blue herons. Poets knew that isolation in nature, far from people and things man-made, was good for the soul, and he’d always identified with poets…
“He remembered talking to Fin about Allie after they’d left the festival that first night, and Fin had laughed. Then he’d made two predictions: first, that they would fall in love, and second, that it wouldn’t work out…
“Fin ended up being right on both counts. Most of the summer, she had to make excuses to her parents whenever they wanted to see each other. It wasn’t that they didn’t like him — it was that he was from a different class, too poor, and they would never approve if their daughter became serious with someone like him. “I don’t care what my parents think, I love you and always will,” she would say. “We’ll find a way to be together.”
“But in the end they couldn’t. By early September the tobacco had been harvested and she had no choice but to return with her family to Winston-Salem. ‘Only the summer is over. Allie, not us,’ he’d said the morning she left. ‘We’ll never be over.’ But they were. For a reason he didn’t fully understand, the letters he wrote went unanswered” (pgs 24-25).
After that Summer
After that lovely and unforgettable summer in 1932 with Allie in New Bern, Noah moved to Norfolk to work at a “shipyard for six months” before moving to New Jersey, where he began working for Morris Goldman, a Jewish man who owned a scrap metal yard (p 26).
In January 1942, at the age of twenty-six, Noah left New Jersey and returned to New Bern to say good-bye to his father (p 28). Noah then enlisted and entered the Second Great War.
“He spent his next three years with Patton’s Third Army, tramping through deserts in North Africa and forests in Europe with thirty pounds on his back, his infantry unit never far from action. He watched his friends die around him; watched as some of them were buried thousands of miles from home. Once, while hiding in a foxhole near the Rhine, he imagined he saw Allie watching over him” (p 29).
The years dragged by and Allie, still haunted by her young love, returned to New Bern. Allie visits Noah at his home, and they go on an excursion in a canoe down Brices Creek.
“Peaceful silence descended on them. An osprey cried somewhere in the distance. A mullet splashed near the bank. The paddle moved rhythmically, causing baffles that rocked the boat ever so slightly. The breeze had stopped, and the clouds grew blacker as the canoe moved toward some unknown destination.
“Allie noticed it all, every sound, every thought. Her senses had come alive, invigorating her, and she felt her mind drifting through the last few weeks. She thought about the anxiety coming here had caused her. The shock at seeing the article, the sleepless nights, her short temper during daylight. Even yesterday she had been afraid and wanted to run away. The tension was gone now, every bit of it, replaced by something else, and she was glad about that as she rode in silence in the old red canoe” (p 103).
Allie recognizes she is still in love with Noah, but she is also conflicted because she is engaged to the attorney Lon Hammond. She is stuck and frozen before two paths that fork in front of her. Knowing she must make a decision between Noah and Lon, she doesn’t know what to do.
Noah tells her: “‘You can’t live your life for other people. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, even if it hurts some people you love.’
“‘I know,’ she said, ‘but no matter what I choose I have to live with it. Forever. I have to be able to go forward and not look back anymore. Can you understand that?’
“‘He shook his head and tried to keep his voice steady. ‘Not really. Not if it means losing you. I can’t do that again.’
“She didn’t say anything but lowered her head. Noah went on:
“‘Could you really leave me without looking back’ (p 141).”
Not knowing what else to do, Allie does leave and Noah watches her drive away.
“He stood there without moving for a long time. As quickly as she had come, she was gone. Forever this time. Forever.
“He closed his eyes then and watched her leave once more, her car moving steadily away from him, taking his heart with her.
“But, like her mother, he realized sadly, she never looked back” (p 145).
If you want to know the rest of the story between Allie and Noah, perhaps you should read the book.
Keep reading and keep smiling….
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a been member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a been Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America (2020); A Time to Forget in East Berlin (2022), and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being (2023).
Forthcoming: The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
You can follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 470,000+ followers
“Readers of The Catcher in the Rye and similar stories will relish the astute, critical inspection of life that makes Little Hometown, America a compelling snapshot of contemporary American life and culture.”
“Fewston employs a literary device called a ‘frame narrative’ which may be less familiar to some, but allows for a picture-in-picture result (to use a photographic term). Snapshots of stories appear as parts of other stories, with the introductory story serving as a backdrop for a series of shorter stories that lead readers into each, dovetailing and connecting in intricate ways.”
“The American novelist CG FEWSTON tells a satisfying tale, bolstered by psychology and far-ranging philosophy, calling upon Joseph Campbell, J. D. Salinger, the King James Bible, and Othello.”
“In this way, the author lends intellectual heft to a family story, exploring the ‘purity’ of art, the ‘corrupting’ influences of publishing, the solitary artist, and the messy interconnectedness of human relationships.”
GOLD Winner in the 2020 Human Relations Indie Book Awards for Contemporary Realistic Fiction
FINALIST in the SOUTHWEST REGIONAL FICTION category of the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence 2020 Awards (NIEA)
“Fewston’s lyrical, nostalgia-steeped story is told from the perspective of a 40-year-old man gazing back on events from his 1980s Texas childhood…. the narrator movingly conveys and interprets the greater meanings behind childhood memories.”
“The novel’s focus on formative childhood moments is familiar… the narrator’s lived experiences come across as wholly personal, deeply felt, and visceral.”
American Novelist CG FEWSTON
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Nico Murillo Bio ~ Americans & Texans for Safe Access ~ Medical Cannabis