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THE NOTEBOOK BY NICHOLAS SPARKS
Noah shakes away her face in his mind by turning back to Whitman and eventually writing in his journal his personal observations and the work he has accomplished on the house. Finally, he falls asleep, having spent the day working as hard as he could so he can forget her, at least for awhile.
Earlier that same evening and a hundred miles away, the girl Noah can never forget is sitting on her own porch swing. She wonders if she has made the right decision. However, she knows that if she doesn’t follow through, she’ll never forgive herself. Lon, her fiancé, doesn’t know the real reason she is leaving the following morning. He just thinks the stress of the wedding has made it necessary for her to get away for a few days. So, the next morning, she packs up and leaves Raleigh, checking into a small inn downtown. She calls Lon right away and after the call reminisces about how she had met him at a Christmas party, where she saw in him someone with confidence about the future and a sense of humor that drove away all her fears. He was a lawyer, successful and handsome. Most important, he had the requisite family name and accomplishments. She had always rebelled against this idea, but the man that Lon became drove away her dislike of “marrying well.” However, despite her guilt about deceiving Lon, she pushes on with her intentions in the town. She also knows her parents would disapprove of what she is doing, but again, she seems determined to follow through.
She dresses casually and thinks momentarily of changing her mind. However, she pulls a folded-up piece of newspaper from her pocketbook and decides as she stares at it that this is what it’s all about.
Meanwhile, Noah rises at five, goes kayaking, and then fishing. It always makes him reflect on his life. As a child, he had stuttered so badly that by the age of five he had stopped speaking altogether. His father then had taken matters into his own hands and made the boy come with him everyday to the lumberyard to stack wood together with his dad. During their time together, Noah’s father would tell him stories about birds or animals or legends common to North Carolina. In the evenings, his father would have him read aloud from Whitman and Tennyson. By the following year, Noah had lost his stutter and became passionately in love with camping and exploring. He realized that “poets knew the isolation in nature, far from people and things man-made, was good for the soul, and he’s always identified with poets.”
Noah had dated a few girls in school, but none meant as much as Allie, his Allie. Fin had laughed and said that he predicted they would fall out of love and that it wouldn’t work out. He ended up being right on both counts. Noah could never meet the expectations of Allie’s parents who wanted her to marry within her class. Allie had vowed that they would find a way to be together, but in the end, they couldn’t. He told her at the end of the summer when her parents were taking her away, that “the summer was over, Allie, but not us.” He began to write to her every day, but his letters went unanswered.
As a result of his lost love, Noah left New Bern, traveling first to Norfolk, Virginia, where he worked at a shipyard. Then, he went to New Jersey where he ended up in a scrap yard owned by Morris Goldman, who believed that he would get rich on all the scrap he was collecting, since he was convinced it would be needed when an inevitable war began. This wonderful Jewish man believed a person should “give a day’s work for a day’s pay. Anything less is stealing,” and he also thought it was a shame that Noah wasn’t Jewish, because he was such a fine boy in every other way. He worked for Morris for eight years, leaving only once to travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in search of Allie. He discovered that her family had moved and left no forwarding address. It was the first and last time he looked for her. He even wrote his final letter and forced himself to accept the fact that the summer they had spent together would be the only thing they ever shared.
By 1940, Noah had mastered Morris’ business and was running the entire operation. He dated a few women during that time and even became serious with one. However, he could never bring himself to feel the same way about her as he felt for Allie. As for the woman he was dating, she told him once, “I wish I could give you what you’re looking for, but I don’t know what it is. There’s a part of you that you keep closed off from everyone, including me. It’s as if I’m not the one you’re really with. You mind is on someone else.” Eventually, she met someone else, and they parted as friends. In the meantime, he saw his father once a year at Christmas, when they would talk, fish, and go camping.
In December, 1941, when Noah was twenty-six, the war began just as Morris predicted. He told Morris he was going to enlist, said good-bye to his father, and entered boot camp. While he was there, Morris sent him a letter in which he thanked Noah for all his hard work and included a certificate that entitled Noah to a percentage of the scrap yard if it ever sold. For the next three years, Noah fought with Patton’s Third Army. He saw friends die around him and be buried thousands of miles from home, and once, while he was hiding in a foxhole, he imagined he saw Allie watching over him. Soon after the war ended and he was discharged, he received a letter from Morris’ lawyer. Goldman had died the year before and his estate had been liquidated. Noah’s share of the profit was $70,000.
Noah returned to New Bern and bought the plantation house he had always wanted. However, he was oddly unexcited about it or the money. He brought his father around to see what he was going to do and talk about the steps his renovation would take. His father seemed weak and he coughed and wheezed as he walked. His father assured him that he just had the flu, but one month later, he was dead of pneumonia. Noah took it hard, dropping by frequently to his parents’ grave to leave flowers and occasionally a note. And every night without fail, he said a prayer for the man who’d taught him everything that mattered.
Now, Noah’s thoughts drift away, and the past disappears for awhile. He puts away his fishing line and discovers his neighbor, Martha, at his house with homemade bread as thanks for all the repairs he has done on her house. Her husband had been killed in the war, and Noah tries to help her out whenever she needs it. Then, he picks up Gus’ daughter, goes to the General Store, and does his grocery shopping. Once home, he finds a Budweiser, a book by Dylan Thomas, and a chair on the porch.
Meanwhile, the girl, Allie, is still looking at the newspaper article she had folded up in her pocketbook. She had discovered it three Sundays before after her father had pointed it out and asked if she remembered the house. She was pale and shaking as she read it, but she whispered to herself that this is where it would end, one way or another. So the article is the reason she has come to New Bern. She climbs into the car and begins her journey. She is not surprised that she knows her way around town so well, but she feels her insides tighten as one by one she recognizes the landmarks she had long since forgotten. A majestic oak tree on the banks of the river comes into view, and she remembers sitting beneath it on a hot July day with someone who looked at her with a longing that took everything else away. Now as she drives along, she remembers every detail about him, especially the sound of his voice as he read poetry to her. She would tell him all her hopes and dreams, and he would promise to make it all come true.
Now comes another turn in the road, and she finally sees the house,
dramatically changed from what she remembers. She slows as she approaches
what she thinks of as the beacon that has summoned her from Raleigh. Then,
she sees him on the porch with the light from the sun behind him. She
stops the car and slowly emerges. Noah begins to approach and then stops
short when he sees who it is. For a moment, all they can do is stare at
each other without moving. They are “Allison Nelson, twenty-nine years
old and engaged, a socialite, searching for answers she needs to know,
and Noah Calhoun, the dreamer, thirty-one, visited by the ghost that had
come to dominate his life.”
This chapter is a combination of flashback and foreshadowing as Noah’s present life is explained and his past life is revealed. We are also introduced to a girl who turns out to be the love he had never forgotten. She is engaged, but has come back to New Bern to act on her feelings and either reunite with Noah or put those feelings for him away forever.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Notebook".
. 12 May 2008