Synopsis

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks comes a tender story of hope and joy; of sacrifice and forgiveness—a moving reminder that love is possible at any age, at any time, and often comes when we least expect it. At forty-five, Adrienne Willis must rethink her entire life when her husband abandons her for a younger woman. Reeling with heartache and in search of a respite, she flees to the small coastal town of Rodanthe, North Carolina to tend to a friend’s inn for the weekend. But when a major storm starts moving in, it appears that Adrienne’s perfect getaway will be ruined—until a guest named Paul Flanner arrives. At fifty-four, Paul has just sold his medical practice and come to Rodanthe to escape his own shattered past. Now, with the storm closing in, two wounded people will turn to each other for comfort—and in one weekend set in motion feelings that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.

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    Inspiration for Nights in Rodanthe

    Unlike most of my novels, Nights in Rodanthe was not inspired by specific people in my life, other than the names of the two lead characters.  That year, when my mother-in-law was visiting, she came up to me and asked if I knew what she wanted for Christmas. “No,” I said, “I don’t,” and she quickly responded, “Paul and I would like our names in one of your books.”

    Hence, the names of the major characters became Paul and Adrienne, and of course, because they were my in-laws, I wanted to write the type of story that they would not only enjoy, but that would not offend them as well.

    Now, when I say that in some ways, this story parallels that of the relationship between my wife and I, I don’t mean to imply that everything that happened in the story happened in real life. Rather, as I had with my other novels, I took the true events and modified them to make the story as interesting as possible.

    So how was the story of Paul and Adrienne similar to the story of my wife and I?

    For starters, my wife and I met in the same way that Paul and Adrienne did, though, of course, for us, it happened on Spring break. (I know, I know… but hear me out.) We were both in our senior years—I was at the University of Notre Dame and Cathy was at the University of New Hampshire, and like Paul and Adrienne, we’d both traveled to a small coastal town in the hopes of a respite, when we met for the first time. I sensed something kind and wonderful about Cathy almost immediately, though Cathy (like Adrienne) was a little bit more hesitant in her feelings for me.

    Like Paul and Adrienne, we had a lot of things in common—Cathy and I were both were middle children from Catholic families, both of us had an older brother and younger sister, both of us were majoring in business, and ironically, both sets of our parents celebrated their anniversaries on August 31. But more than that, I was drawn to her common-sense view of the world, her views on the importance of family, her ability to laugh and listen (all elements of Adrienne’s character and the way Paul sees her). On the day after we met, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, because I knew even then that I’d never find someone so perfectly matched for me as she was (again, just like Paul). So I told her how I felt. And Cathy’s first response when I told her that we’d be married someday? She laughed and suggested “that I get another beer.”

    Rodanthe, NC

    Rodanthe, NC

    At the tip of the Southern Outer Banks lies the beach town of Rodanthe (pronounced “Ro-DAN-thee), bordered on both sides by sand dunes and water. Rodanthe, part of the tri-city region that includes the towns of Waves and Salvo, is a place where people come for quiet relaxation on the sound. Rodanthe is also a more active town, popular for water and wind sports on the windy beach shores. The town also provides numerous and unique shops and restaurants. Tucked-away and peaceful, Rodanthe provides the ideal location for two worn-down people to find a second chance at love.

    Like Adrienne, she didn’t believe it was possible. But it was.

    Like Paul and Adrienne, we were only together for five days before we each had to go back to our “other” lives. And like Paul and Adrienne, we wrote letters and made phone calls to each other in the months we were apart. I wrote at least once a day, and shared my hopes and dreams with her. I wrote love letters, I wrote letters to let her know what I was doing, and I wrote letters that described a future life together. In fact, some of the letters quoted in the book were drawn from the letters I’d originally sent Cathy. And like Paul and Adrienne, despite the fact that we couldn’t see each other, our love for each other grew stronger during this period apart, and as the flap of the novel proclaims: love comes at any age, at any time, and often when we least expect it.

    In other words, for those of you who don’t believe that love can blossom as quickly as it did for Paul and Adrienne, I just want you to know that it can, and it’s as real as love that takes years to form. And if you don’t believe love can grow stronger, even if you’re not together? It did for us, and my wife and I have been married since 1989.

    Nights in Rodanthe - audio excerpt

    The Feature Film

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    • Director: George C. Wolfe
    • Screenplay: Ann Peacock and John Romano
    • Cast: Richard Gere, Diane Lane
    • Run Time: 97 minutes

    Nights in Rodanthe Official Trailer

    About The Film

    The stars of Unfaithful rekindle their on-screen chemistry in this rich tale of hearts' awakenings from the bestseller by Nicholas Sparks (The NotebookMessage in a Bottle). Richard Gere is Paul, a surgeon who long ago unwittingly traded family for career. Diane Lane is Adrienne, a devoted mother trying to move on after her husband's infidelity and struggling with his desire to return to their marriage. At a remote inn on the Outer Banks, both separately expect to do some serious soul-searching. But an approaching storm forces each turn to the other for strength, setting the stage for a life-resonating romance.

    Book FAQs

    • Is there really an Inn at Rodanthe, like the one described in the novel?

      No, there isn’t. There are a number of bed and breakfasts in other towns in the Outer Banks that are similar, but I moved it to Rodanthe for the story. Why? I loved the name Rodanthe … it conjures up a mixture of mystery and sensuality, and I’ve always wanted to set a story there.

    • Is Rodanthe described accurately?

      Yes. Rodanthe is, in reality, a tiny village on the Outer Banks. It is located on the beach, weathered and isolated.

    • Were you influenced by The Bridges of Madison County in the creation and writing of this story?

      Some critics have made this assumption, but in reality, I was guided more by The Notebook than The Bridges of Madison County. Yes, the characters were roughly the same age in both Nights and Bridges, and yes, the relationship ended, but other than that, there was little in common with the stories. Bridges was the story of adultery, after all, while mine was not. Paul sacrificed for his child; the main male character in Bridges was a loner without children. The main female character in Bridges cheated on her husband; Adrienne had been left by her husband for a younger woman. Paul was a much harder-edged, flawed character than was the main male character in Bridges. The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

    • Where did you get the names for the characters in this novel?

      The names came from my in-laws: Paul and Adrienne. Flanner, Paul’s last name, was the name of the dormitory where I lived in college. Willis, Adrienne’s last name, came from someone in the town where I live. The children’s names were taken from my cousins.

    • What inspired you to write this story? Is there any parallel in your own life?

      Yes, parts came from my own life, though less than in my previous novels. See Background Information for Nights in Rodanthe.

    • Was Robert Torrelson based on someone you know?

      No, Robert Torrelson was created wholly from my imagination. So was the love story with his wife.

    • Have the film rights been sold?

      Yes. A major motion picture, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, was released in the fall of 2008. The movie is now widely available on DVD.

    • What were the shooting locations for Nights in Rodanthe?

      The film was shot, for the most part, in Rodanthe, North Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina.

    • Why did Paul have to die at the end of the novel?

      There were a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, there had to be a reason for Adrienne to tell the story to her daughter, and it had to resonate with her daughter. By having her own past tragedy, Adrienne could relate to Amanda, and Amanda could realize that it’s possible to move on, no matter how much grief a person feels. Also, of course, there is the theme of love and sacrifice, which shaped every aspect of the novel. But in order to sacrifice, something must be lost. Both characters were willing to sacrifice the time they would have with each other for the sake of their children (Paul heading off to Ecuador, Adrienne going back to Rocky Mount), and I think that sacrifice is inherent in good parenting. Both Paul and Adrienne loved their children, and the sacrifices they were willing to make made them nobler as characters. Also, of course, I write tragedies, and I do that to create poignancy for the readers. Hence, from the very beginning of the story, I knew that Paul had died in Ecuador. Had he lived, he and Adrienne would have been together, but there would have been no way to create the emotional impact necessary to make a short novel memorable. Had Paul and Adrienne told the story to Amanda together, for instance (for an entirely different reason of course – maybe Amanda was simply wondering whether she would ever fall in love), the story would have come across as self-congratulatory, rather than as a lesson. In that scenario, Amanda would already know that love is possible, and logically, that would be one of the reasons she was upset. Her mom found love, but she couldn’t. In the end, it might make Amanda feel worse. In each “alternative” version, I kept coming back to that sort of problem. In addition, I write dramatic fiction. Dramatic fiction should represent the realities of life, and the best dramatic fiction allows the reader to feel a number of different emotions—happiness, empathy, anger, frustration, sympathy, passion, and of course sadness. All of those other emotions are played out in the novel as well, it’s just that most people seem to remember only the final emotion—sadness. But always remember that there would have been no sadness had the reader not cared for the characters, and to do that, the reader had to understand and sympathize with them. And finally, always remember that all great love stories—in novels or in life—must, by definition, incorporate tragedy. If there’s no great love, there’s no great loss. I read that somewhere (I can’t claim to have originated that statement) and it’s guided me throughout each of my novels.