True Believer
by Nicholas Sparks, contemporary (2006)
Warner, 5.99, ISBN 0-7515-3656-3

Sorry, folks, this story doesn't have a dramatically forced sad ending to bring out the eek-eek-eek's. True Believer is probably the closest Nicholas Sparks has ever written to a typical romance novel. Unfortunately, given Mr Sparks' barely rudimentary ability of plotting and characterization, this book therefore is comparable to a very bad romance novel where the heroine acts like she's a chicken with her head cut off while running all over the place. Is this how male authors view females, I wonder? Because this isn't the first time I've read a book by a male author where the female romantic interest is horrifyingly stupid yet so utterly loved by the hero.

Anyway, knowing which side his bread is buttered on, Mr Sparks once again sticks to the right-leaning smalltown Americana premise. Somewhere out there below the Mason-Dixon belt, there is no doubt a sweet old lady weeping to this story in a living room filled with Thomas Kinkade memorabilias interspersed with anything from stuffed heads of bears and moose to pointy triangular white hats that are, of course, no doubt for use on Halloween. In this story, we have the town guy journalist hero Jeremy Marsh who, being from the big city, is tainted by its un-Christian liberal sinful ways to the point that he takes antidepressants and doesn't believe in God-given miracles anymore. On his trip to that small town of Boone Creek, North Carolina to investigate strange lights in a cemetary, he meets our heroine Lexie Darnell, the town librarian. Can good old-fashioned Christian Godly Republican True Love redeem our hero?

Lexie is a librarian but I honestly wonder whether the actual librarian has been dead and her corpse rotting in some storage area while Lexie the obviously demented escaped nutcase is taking her place. This woman is, in a word, puerile. She has had two bad relationships before - not with her father and the local sheep, unlike what the gossips insinuate - so now she is on an All Big City Men Must Die trip (her exes were from the big city, you see). She is ridiculously rude and nasty to Jeremy from the get go and throughout this book when she's not weeping or acting like a spineless crackpot she's running away from her problems. Naturally, she will never leave Boone Creek so their romance isn't meant to be unless the Big Evil City Man will give up everything just to indulge the heroine who isn't giving back anything at all to the hero. Lexie doesn't make sense as a sensible character - she is everything a weak and obnoxious heroine can be and then some.

Jeremy is, of course, a saint, which makes his supposed tortured past all the more unconvincing, but that's not as fake as the fact that he falls for Lunatic Lexie in just two freaking days. Frankly, I lose all respect for Jeremy when he just stands there and takes all the overwrought nonsense Lunatic Lexie heaps on him and then asks for more.

This story will work if the reader doesn't care for the lame throwaway subplot about the mysterious going-ons in the cemetary and seeks only some validation about how life in a small town is so much better than that in the sinful and disgusting big city. In short, this is either a very effective xenophobic handbook to reaffirm your prejudices about the big city and its people or a truly painful novel of unmeasurable badness. Still, the trees that died while spontaneously aborting True Believer didn't do so in vain as this literary equivalent to a soggy Kleenex found in a trash can has plenty of ridiculous and absurd scenes to laugh out loud at.

Rating: 28

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