The Rescue
by Nicholas Sparks, contemporary (2000)
Warner, $22.95, ISBN 0-446-52550-2

No, don't look at me like that. This is not an exercise in spite. I really don't want to read any more Nicholas Sparks books, which I feel are the most horrifying things on print ever since they invented those Chicken Soup books. This review is as much an open response to Cecilia who took offense enough at my views on Mr Sparks' literary skills to actually mail me this hardcover and dare me to read it "with an open mind".

Cecilia, I'll send back this book to you. I can't very much in good conscience keep it. I first asked my husband to be the volunteer to read The Rescue, but he balks; he is still reeling from A Walk To Remember.

So I steel my nerves, tell my husband to summon an ambulance should he hear screams or utter silence one hour after I start reading, and open The Rescue. Who knows, with such low, minimally low expectations, maybe I'll like this book more than I thought I would. How's that for open minded?

Well, even as I now gargle in saltwater in a vain hope of removing the sickening saccharine aftertaste in my mouth, I can safely say that my mind isn't opened enough. Sorry. I haven't been bombarded with this much fake sentimentality and disgusting greeting card overdone sweetness since - hey, Message In A Bottle!

Perfect, perfect, perfect one-dimensional hero Taylor MacAden (who happens to be rich, sensitive, perfect, and absolutely devoid of any personality whatsoever - amazing) saves perfect, martyr, tragic, one-dimensional damsel-in-distress Denise Holden's "speech-delayed" son's life. These two cardboard cut-outs then fall in love and indulge in PG-rated premarital sex.

Handicapped son, heroine in poverty - isn't that romantic! Be still my heart, and let me wear my diapers first. This is gross. And I thought Catherine Anderson's overdone traumas in Baby Love and Seventh Heaven are bad. But it's worse here, because the whole relationship between Taylor and Denise is ersatz, plastic, synthetic. There is this condescending smirkiness in the prose, where it seems to be taken for granted that it is a woman's place in life to be rescued by her man.

From a female author like Anderson, it is bad enough. From a male author - it is my prejudice but I feel really insulted. Why can't Mr Sparks take time to create some deep dialogues that have more than two sentences? A sentence with more than seven words? How about some vulnerability that isn't manufactured? A perfect man saves a perfect but poverty-stricken passive miss - female fantasy at its most bastardized, low-brow plebianistic standards.

Cecilia, you said that Mr Sparks' writing is a touch above Harlequin romances. But honey, here's my advice. Get your breathing gear and dive into a romance novel. No, not a Harlequin one - I will be the first to agree with you about the fakeness of Harlequin cowboys and millionaires. Try, oh, Suzanne Brockmann's Heartthrob or Michelle Jerott's A Great Catch. Once exposed to what a good author can do with well-developed characters and conflicts that don't seem contrived, who knows, maybe you'll see Nicholas Sparks as the manufactured fake leeching on deluded "romance are crap" women who are too scornful to ever read a romance novel (and hence have no idea that fake is crap).

Then again, maybe it's just one of us who has bad taste in reading (me or you, I'll leave it to you to decide). Either way, this book is placed on my bookshelf and hubby and I avoid it like a plague. We can't help feeling as if some antichrist amulet is on our shelves, however, radiating pure evil that make us want to flee our house. We do want to watch TV, and dang if we will let a hack like Sparks drive us out of our house. I'll return the book to you ASAP.

Rating: 01

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