Friday, February 02, 2007

Question of the Week #24: A Good (Relationship) Read

The Dr. Andrew Book Club ... say, that has a nice ring to it. Maybe we can get something like that going here today.

Relationship fiction is generally considered the domain of female readers -- romance novels, romantic comedies, dramatic family sagas, and the like. I contend, though, that virtually all fiction is about people and their relationships.

For example, you could make the case that The Godfather is a tale of how a family sticks together after immigrating to New York. The book ends with the newly instated Godfather, Michael Corleone, betraying his wife’s trust by lying to her.

My favorite relationship novel, though, is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. This is actually two stories in one, both involving the same couple, at different stages in their life. The romantic tension crackles when a young woman from the right side of the tracks must decide between two men -- her successful lawyer fiancé or the handsome, romantic Noah Calhoun, with whom she had a torrid summer years before. Her family and her sense of duty both vote for the lawyer, while her heart wants Noah. Okay, so there is only one way any self-respecting romantic author would finish that one off, and Sparks does the expected. Still, the ride is fun while it lasts.

Then the last portion of the book takes place when the woman lives in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. Her husband reads their life story to her each day from The Notebook in an effort to jog her memory, hoping by some bittersweet miracle she will have a moment when she remembers their great love. It’s syrupy stuff, but highly entertaining.

I also believe fiction contains a healthy dose of relationship reality, otherwise we couldn’t relate to the stories. Most young folks do want to follow their heart, and life circumstances don’t always cooperate. It’s easy to identify with the young lady’s dilemma in The Notebook.

So what is your favorite relationship novel and why does it appeal to you? Do you think it reflects relationship reality?

Are you reading a good relationship novel right now? If so, fill us in - maybe others would enjoy the same book.


  1. Well, great day to check your post.

    I haven't read the Novel, but found the Movie to be my ultimate favorite...which coming from someone who has watched probably more than 2000 in a lifetime (so far - 30 years), that's saying a lot.

    I watch this movie mainly because it is what relationships and marriage should be all about. Knowing that it will take a lot of work, knowing that it will take a lot of commitment, sometimes having to make the difficult decisions and ultimately, that your home doesn't exist in any building, but with that special someone you choose to spend your life with and the moments that make it count.

    Noah Calhoun also points out a very important thing about life in general when he asks her what she "does" for her - meaning an interest she enjoys for her. We all should have something that we do for ourselves, not because its expected, required or what it can give us, just simply because it lets us be ourselves. In the movie, hers was painting and with the lawyer, she didn't paint anymore. Finding someone we can be ourselves with is equally important.

  2. Got your blog from Shannon's comment (todAAy). You've a lovely blog. A bit different from our regular recovery post but fun to read.

    Drop by and see all of our Recovery Bloggers.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    Greeting from Malaysia.

  3. My favourite relationship novel (and film) is "The Bridges of Madison County" by Robert J. Waller.

    I think this story does reflect a facet of many people's lives, when duty and loyalty override desire. In this story nobody is hurt except the two main characters themselves, which was the best outcome, morally. It makes the film version particularly painful to watch towards the end, though.

  4. Hi Andrew--

    To answer your question concerning my favorite relationship book: "Rose's Garden" by Carrie Brown

    It's about Condrad, a reserved older man coming to grips with his wife's death, and his journey toward connecting with the other people in the town who'd loved her as well. Carrie does a good job of leading the reader back and forth between the couple's past (courtship, marriage and relationships with others) and Condrad's present. There's a visitation by an angel, a huge flood and surprise heroes throughout. It is a beautifully detailed story.

    Conrad and Rose's relationship is well-drawn--their devotion to one another and their learned acceptance of one another's limitations reflects what I've seen in the life-long love I've seen in the older people in my community.

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog recently. I do not enjoy James Patterson's Alex Cross books, because poor Alex never seems to have any light at the end of his very long tunnel. However, Patterson has written a few very surprising relationship novels, among them "Suzanne's diary for Nicholas" and "Sam's letters to Jennifer". I found these both deeply affecting. Another book about relationships that I enjoy (as long as it isn't disqualified on the grounds of not being about a guy-and-girl relationship) is John Grisham's "Bleachers".

  6. Happy Saturday, Andrew.
    My favorite relationship novel is a very old one called 'The Valley of Decision' by Marcia Davenpor.
    I enjoy it every time I read it, because it spans several generations, and always has the constant theme of loving, caring and fortitude through stressful times. I think it is beautiful...

  7. Well I still love Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austin...(i know..) but i could watch the new movie over and over...while that is about the earlier stages of a relationship. I am also a big Jennifer Weiner fan and Good in Bed is a great read about relationships mainly letting go of one and how to move one. Also every Nick Sparks book is awesome and tells a story about relationships. The followup to the Notebook is the Wedding and I loved it as well as well as his new one Dear John about loving someone enough to let them go and be truly happy.

  8. Well... I completely agree with Chunks Mom in the first two sentences. Absolutely.

    But as far as "The Notebook" goes... I only saw the movie, so perhaps things come across differently in the book, but I really disliked "The Notebook." I thought it portrayed this grandiose, epic love story that isn't realistic. How many people really experience that? How many would want to? Epic love stories are exhausting to live through (or, at least, I would think so). I'm a romantic at heart, but I like... realistic romances. I don't mind sappy - heck, my favorite movie is "You've Got Mail."

    I guess I've just come to realize in recent years that love, as portrayed in movies and books and television, usually doesn't look like that. There isn't a nice soundtrack, things get messy, people are clumsy and say the wrong thing sometimes, and no one looks that good all the time.

    Perhaps that sounds jaded, but I think of more as being honest and not setting myself up for disappointment. And I'm happily in a relationship and still swoon when my fiance says the sweetest things and so forth.

    And now, after hijacking this discussion, which wasn't what I intended, I must go brave the below-zero temperatures here and find some lunch.

  9. Anonymous11:00 AM

    I just finished reading Dr. John by Nicholas Sparks.....a tragic yet very romantic love story. Don't know that it is my favorite love story of all time, but it was beautiful.

  10. Andrew,
    I love "The Notebook" this is one of my favorites too! I am not a big fiction reader, this was the first fiction that I have read in years. I was enthralled by it. I also love the follow-up book "The Wedding", excellent story!