Category Archives: Novels by Region

7. Novels by Region

Lights, Camera, Novel: Catherine Marshall’s Christy.

Christy TV SeriesSome of the best stories originate from real life, like Catherine Marshall’s 1967 novel Christy. Marshall was inspired to write her famous book based on the experiences of her mother, Leonora Whitaker, who left her family and home in North Carolina to teach at a mission school in the Appalachian Mountains in 1909. After Marshall and her parents later visited the mission school in Del Rio, Tennessee in the late fifties, Marshall wanted to tell her mother’s story. Many elements in Christy are rooted in fact. Marshall conducted extensive research into Appalachian life and culture, so even the fictionalized aspects of the novel are still well-founded.

Twenty-seven years later, Christy was developed into a TV series, which debuted on Easter Sunday on CBS. True to the novel, the show was filmed in Tennessee. Kellie Martin portrayed Christy. Tyne Daly won an Emmy for her supporting role as Alice Henderson, a Quaker missionary, and LeVar Burton joined the cast in season two. Fans of Marshall’s novel enjoyed the series, though their satisfaction was short-lived. Executives canceled the show soon after the season two finale was shot. Twenty-one episodes were filmed in all.

Viewers were upset about the cancellation because the season two series finale ended on a cliffhanger with Christy split between two very different men vying for her affection, the rugged Dr. Neil MacNeil and the handsome Reverend David Grantland. Seeking resolution, fans wrote to CBS requesting that the show be put back on the air. Five years later, in 2000, PAX network (since renamed Ion) continued the unresolved plot line in a made-for-TV movie. Some of the same actors reprised their roles, but Christy was recast using an unknown actor, Lauren Lee Smith. Three TV movies adapting Marshall’s novel were released between 2000 and 2001 giving fans the closure they were denied in the canceled TV series. The movies – Christy: Return to Cutter Gap, Christy: A Change of Seasons and Christy: A New Beginning — were filmed primarily in Canada.

Lauren Lee Smith as Christy

A book cover with Lauren Lee Smith as Christy.

Christy still boasts an active fan base. Starting in 1997, enthusiasts of the novel and TV show have met to discuss their fascination for Christy. The annual meeting was dubbed “ChristyFest,” and it often occurs in Townsend, Tennessee, the filming location of the TV show. This year ChristyFest will be held May 23-25 in Del Rio, Tennessee. From the ChristyFest site, it appears that registration will open soon.

No doubt, Christy has captured the attention of loyal fans, and the love triangle between the main characters is a big draw. In writing this post, I found evidence of a Neil and Christy fan site with photos from the TV show and the TV movies, interviews with cast members, episode guides, and analysis and more. There are also special fan fiction sites and some fictionalized Twitter accounts created from the perspectives of Christy, Neil, David, and Alice.

Catherine Marshall is recognized as a Christian writer. The Christy Awards were created to acknowledge Christian fiction writers and the three Christy TV movies were backed by the support of the now defunct PAX network, which focused on “family-based” programming. It appears that Inspiration Network, or INSP TV, currently broadcasts episodes from the Christy TV series. INSP headquarters are in the Charlotte metro area.

Kellie Martin as Christy

An audiobook cover with Kellie Martin as Christy.

Read the original blog post on Catherine Marshall’s Christy here. The complete TV series is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog along with the original novel and an audiobook version of the novel read by Kellie Martin.

Sources consulted here: Christianity Today, The Christy Awards, ChristyFest site and blog, Christy Fan Fiction, IMDb, Inspiration Networks/INSP TV, Neil and Christy fan site, Twitter (see paragraph above for the specific accounts), Wikipedia (Catherine Marshall, Christy [novel], Christy [TV series])

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2000-2009, 2001, Buncombe, Historical, Marshall, Catherine, Mountains, Novels by Region, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Mary Flinn. The Nest. New York: Aviva Publishing, 2013.

nestA nest, yes, but whose nest?

With retirement on the horizon, her daughters out of the house, and her husband traveling for business, Cherie Johnson was looking forward to enjoying the freedom and peace of being an empty-nester.  But all that changes in a single week when her older daughter, Hope, moves home after her boyfriend announces that he is moving to Italy without her.  Hope has studied to be an art teacher, but in the down economy, she can’t get a teaching job.  She gets by–barely–by working in a high-end dress shop and bartending.  Cherie has adjusted to Hope’s situation, but she is unprepared when her husband, Dave, becomes another casualty of the economy.  After twelve years as a sales representative, a corporate restructuring leaves Dave without a job.  Dave could go to his mother, who heads a furniture manufacturing company, but neither he nor Cherie want to do that.  Instead, Dave sends out resumes, checks employment websites, and handles the household chores–including training the little Papillon puppy that Hope brought home with her.  Dave juggles this all pretty well for the first month or two, until his fruitless job search takes its toll on his spirits.

At least Cherie and Dave’s daughter Wesley is doing well.  She is about to finish her nursing degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, and she has just become engaged to a nice fellow who has a good job with Apple.  But with the cost of a wedding now on the horizon, Cherie realizes that she must put off retirement.  At least she has coworkers who lift her spirits and gently offer advice–and so does Hope.  In chapters that alternate between Cherie and Hope’s perspective, readers learn how each woman thinks and grows, and how the family rights itself.  As in Mary Flinn’s other books, The Nest includes a network of family and friends populated by well drawn characters.  Readers will be both exasperated and charmed by Dave’s mother, Toots, and it’s a testament to Flinn’s generosity that even Hope’s self-absorbed boyfriend Liam is not wholly dislikable.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Flinn, Mary, Guilford, Piedmont

Lights, Camera, Novel: Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain.

If you’re in the right age bracket, you might remember Escape to Witch Mountain from your childhood. Which format and version you recall depends on your generation. Novelist Alexander Key first wrote the book in 1967. Key began his career as a well-known illustrator who eventually transitioned into writing. His writing can be described as science fiction for kids. Key was born in Maryland and spent many years in Florida before moving to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and son. A fan page on Key says that he and his family made the move after they “decided Florida was growing too fast.” Much of Key’s work is currently out-of-print. Escape to Witch Mountain is one of Key’s best known titles. The book tells the story of orphans Tony and Tia who possess supernatural gifts and are on the hunt to figure out their origins before the evil Lucas Deranian reaches them first.

In 1975, Disney released a film adaptation of the novel directed by John Hough, which, at the time, became one of their most popular live-action movies. The movie follows the basic plot from beginning to end with some noticeable modifications. First, the setting was relocated from the East coast to the West coast, where the movie was filmed. In the novel, Father O’Day helps the children on their quest and protects them from Deranian. In the movie, O’Day plays the same role, but his character is a widower named Jason O’Day. Deranian is the central villain in the novel, whereas in the movie he becomes ancillary to his mastermind boss, Aristotle Bolt. The child actors who play Tony and Tia aren’t perfect physical matches for their book counterparts who are supposed to look unearthly with their olive-skin and light hair. Instead, they look like wholesome child actors.

 

This clip, from TCM, shows Tony and Tia’s arrival to the orphanage. The movie’s portrayal is much lighter and more innocent: Miss. Grindley is kinder and Truck, a bully at the orphanage, is much less threatening. Yet the most surprising change is Tia speaking. Muteness is a major feature of her character. In the novel, Tia is seen as an oddity because she does not speak out loud. Instead, she carries a pad and pen around to communicate with other people. She is able to converse with her brother telepathically. Another clip from TCM shows that the movie still includes her telepathic communication with Tony.

Disney created a sequel called Return from Witch Mountain in 1978, also directed by John Hough. The same child actors, Ike (now known as Iake) Eisenmann and Kim Richards, reprized their roles as slightly older Tony and Tia. Bette Davis and Christopher Lee starred as the movie’s villains who hoped to manipulate the siblings’ powers. Four years later, Disney released yet another sequel, Beyond Witch Mountain with a new director. By this time, the original Tony and Tia has grown out of the roles and were recast. The plot appears to pick up from after the original 1975 Escape from Witch Mountain adaptation and it ignores the story-line from the 1978 Return from Witch Mountain. This second sequel was created as a pilot for a possible TV series. But since no networks expressed interest, no other episodes were filmed.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Disney remade Escape to Witch Mountain as a made-for-TV movie. The movie shared some elements with Key’s story, like orphaned siblings with powers (renamed Danny and Anna). Most of the TV movie departed from the original plot though, for instance Danny and Anna are initially separated. Finally, in 2009 Disney produced its latest rendition, called Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb and Carla Gugino. Like the 1995 adaptation, Race only shares some passing similarities to Key’s novel and the 1975 film. Adolescent Tony and Tia were remodeled as teenaged Seth and Sara. As the years passed, it seems that each revision departed further from the original, maybe as a means to refresh and modernize the story, while still maintaining essential characters and motivations.

Escape to Witch Mountain and its many adaptations are nostalgic classics. Alexander Key’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog and has been previously blogged on here. The film and TV adaptations are not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. If you’re local to the area, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) are available at the Chapel Hill and the Durham Public Libraries and could make an interesting back-to-back screening of two adaptations thirty-four years apart.

Sources consulted here: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksJenny’s Wonderland of Books blogLos Angeles Times (on the child actors from the 1975 & 1978 films), New York Times, Roger Ebert, TCMTCMDb, Thru the Forgotten Door: Into Alexander Key’s Magical Worlds (Alexander Key Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2004), Wikipedia (Alexander KeyEscape to Witch Mountain — Novel, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1975 Film, Return from Witch Mountain, Beyond Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1995 Film, Race to Witch Mountain), The Witch Mountain Experience (Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2007)

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1975, 1978, 1980-1989, 1982, 1990-1999, 1995, 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Key, Alexander, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Reynolds Price. Kate Vaiden. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Considering how I was soon to behave, I have to wonder if I ever really loved him. I’d shown most other human instincts till then. Why did mothering fail me?

At age 11, Kate Vaiden makes a vow to her mother Frances never to become a mother. In a sense, she never does. Although Kate gives birth at 17 to a son named Lee, she leaves him behind with her extended family. Forty years later, Kate begins to wonder what happened to Lee. If he is still alive and well, Lee is forty, and at Kate’s best estimation, he has made his way in the world without her. She believes it is unlikely that Lee would need or want her in his life at this point. For all intents and purposes, Kate kept good on her promise. By abandoning her son, it’s as if she never bore him at all. Yet there are questions hanging over her her, the first: Who is Lee Vaiden?

The second question traces back to Kate’s roots and a major turning point in her life: Who was Frances Bullock Vaiden? Kate’s parents, Frances Bullock and Dan Vaiden  met in 1925 and married soon after. Their union was tumultuous. Dan’s father was against the marriage. Although Dan was convinced that his father would grow to love Frances, he overestimated his father’s affections. The couple decided to escape to Greensboro for a fresh start. But the fresh start withered under their passions. As a child, Kate observed her father “burn” her mother with a “hot flow of words.”

Frances’ closeness with her family created a source of tension between her and Dan. When Frances’ nephew Traswell dies, she takes Kate home to Macon to attend the funeral, but Dan stays behind. After the funeral, Dan unexpectedly shows up in Macon. He arrives while Frances and another nephew have gone to Traswell’s grave. Dan drives to the cemetery, and without warning, shoots Frances and himself. Up to that point, Kate had believed that she had a happy childhood, irrespective of any strain between Frances and Dan.  Following her parent’s murder-suicide, she is left under the care of Frances’ sister Caroline and her husband in Macon. From there, the novel follows Kate from adolescence to middle-age. Kate struggles to form any sort of lasting commitment or attachment to another person. During her formative years, what Kate loved left her. As a young woman and adult, she becomes a quitter. Whenever things get serious, Kate bolts. Single and fifty-seven years old, she’s an eternal orphan.

Kate Vaiden is the story of Kate’s life, as told by Kate in hindsight. Parents, family, and home are contentious topics for Kate. Her residual questions about her mother and lingering questions about her son influence her life. In regard to Lee, Kate regrets that her “baby-making machinery works” but “when they made me, they left out the mothering part.” Price creates a flawed protagonist in Kate who is good at hurting others and has been hurt in turn. Despite all her imperfections, Kate’s engaging and entertaining voice smooths over her less attractive qualities and makes her situation more sympathetic. The novel earned Price, who was a novelist, poet, and English professor at Duke University, the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Guilford, Piedmont, Price, Reynolds, Wake, Warren

Lights, Camera, Novel: James Patterson’s Kiss the Girls.

Kiss the Girls Movie PosterJames Patterson’s Alex Cross series was perfectly timed for moviegoers of the nineties who were primed for psychological thrillers after a number of popular hits. Reviewers drew comparisons between Kiss the Girls and other releases like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. However, the comparisons between the films were not entirely favorable. Kiss the Girls starred Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, whose career was just beginning to accelerate.

The novel follows forensic psychologist Alex Cross as he learns that his niece Naomi, a law student at Duke, was kidnapped by a lascivious serial killer who masquerades under the pseudonym, Casanova. Cross abandons DC for Durham. His emotions are high and he is focused on finding Naomi before it’s too late. Meanwhile, medical intern Kate McTiernan is Casanova’s latest victim, but not for long. McTiernan manages to escape, which makes her the anomalous sole survivor. She and Cross team up to uncover Casanova’s true identity and rescue the other victims still languishing in Casanova’s “harem.”

Kiss the Girls is Patterson’s only novel that features a North Carolina setting. But Patterson layered plenty of authenticating detail in his book to evoke the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Filming locations for the movie adaptation were largely limited to Durham, and of course, Los Angeles. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did not to approve the film’s request to use the university’s campus during shooting.

In the past, the University has a mixed record of accepting some requests to film on campus, but rejecting others. According to a Daily Tarheel article from 2001, UNC’s major ruling factor is maintaining the University’s image. The University also considers how the project might provide opportunities or disruptions to campus life. Ultimately, the University decided against Kiss the Girls due to its graphic content. Chapel Hill officials did not consent to give the producers permission to shut down Franklin Street for filming.

Although Kiss the Girls is second in the Cross series it was adapted first. Along Came a Spider, the first novel in the series, was a follow-up in 2001. While Kiss the Girls performed well at the box office, critics panned the film for pacing issues and a lack of uniqueness. Both Freeman and Judd were commended for their performances however. In 2012, Tyler Perry starred in an Alex Cross reboot. There are plans for a sequel reportedly.

The clip below, from Movie Clips, shows a scene following Kate’s escape where she delivers a statement to the press:

The movie version is a bit more solemn than the novel. In the book, Kate’s introductory remarks are self-deprecating and elicit a few smiles. More or less, the monologues match up.  But both versions represent Kate as a strong and intelligent character, in spite of her ordeal.

Patterson’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. There are copies at Davis Library and Wilson Library. The film adaptation is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog as well. Copies can be found at the Media Resources Center in the Undergraduate Library and Wilson Library. The original blog post for the novel is here.

Sources consulted here: The Baltimore Sun, The Daily Tarheel (two different articles), Film Journal InternationalIMDb, Movie Clips, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Roger Ebert, The Washington Post (two different reviews), Wikipedia

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1997, Durham, Orange, Patterson, James, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Annis Ward Jackson. Blue Ridge Parkway Plunge. United States: SunnyBrick Publishers, 2009.

blue ridgeRachel Myers, who readers first met in Blind Malice, has moved back to her Blue Ridge home in (fictitious) Sheppard County, North Carolina.  Rachel feels guilty moving back now, rather than a few years earlier when her elderly father could have used her help, but now she has a good job waiting for her at a high-end retirement community near her hometown.  Donna Matheson, Rachel’s longtime friend, alerted her to job.  Now that Rachel is back in the area, Donna thinks that she has also found the right man for Rachel–Detective Robby Barnett.  This kind of meddling is what old friends do, right?

But the plot in this book centers on a different friendship.  Isaac Starling has been the hired man on the Myers farm for decades.  He was more than a workman, he was a loyal friend to Rachel’s late father, and Rachel is so fond of him that she wants him to live in the family home with her now.  So Rachel can’t refuse Isaac when he asks her to investigate the death of his friend, Jack Whaley.  Mr. Whaley’s body was found at the bottom of a cliff along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The authorities think that his death was suicide or an accident, but Isaac can’t accept that.  Isaac insists that Jack was an upright man, but under questioning by Rachel he remembers a few occasions when Jack bumped up against some trouble.  It’s not much to go on, but Rachel follows those leads–with help from that nice Detective Barnett.

This is the second book in the Rachel Myers Murder Mystery Series.  Readers will enjoy learning more about Rachel’s interests; gardeners will particularly appreciate the description of Rachel’s plans for the gardens around her family home.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Janice Lane Palko. Cape Cursed. United States: Plenum Publishing, 2013.

Relocating the Cape Destiny Lighthouse is a high stakes venture for Bliss Sherman.  Moving a structure its size and age is no easy task, and many of the locals oppose relocating the historic structure.  This project will be the first really big job that Sherman Engineering has done since Bliss create the company after splitting (personally and professionally) from the established engineering firm headed by her ex-husband.  This high profile job has brought Bliss a lot of media attention.  Since few engineering firms are headed by Amerasian women, and Bliss is an attractive woman with a compelling story, she has been asked for interviews by everyone from People to the local high school paper.  The project needs to be a success–and on budget.

Bliss is grateful to have good people working for her–Randy, a hands-on crew manager and Nancy, an administrative assistant.  Nancy is a godsend, working around Bliss’s dyslexia to keep the office running smoothly and handling dozen of small personal matters for Bliss.  But will a good plan, the right equipment, and a good crew be enough?  When the company’s equipment is vandalized and Bliss assaulted, Bliss begins to worry.  Is the lighthouse really cursed–do bad things happen to people associated with it? Is her ex-husband, now a professional rival, behind these troubles?  Or are some locals–including that handsome Parker Swain–so committed to stopping the move that they have resorted to violence?  The suspense builds as Bliss struggles to decide who to trust in a situation that has become professionally and personally perilous.

The controversy surrounding moving the fictitious Cape Destiny Lighthouse will remind many readers of the arguments over the relocation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Palko, Janice Lane, Suspense/Thriller

Wiley Cash. This Dark Road to Mercy. New York: William Morrow, 2014.

dark roadEaster Quillby is twelve, but she has already made up her mind about her dad, Wade: he is the loser that her mom always said he was. Wade was a professional baseball player, a pitcher, but he never made it to the major leagues and he has drifted ever since. Robert Pruitt is an ex-ballplayer too. He’s a hard man–brought up by a sadistic dad, he’s been a drug dealer and now he’s an ex-con who works as a bouncer at the Tomcat bar just outside Gastonia. And he knows what he thinks about Wade: Wade beaned him a ballgame, disfiguring him and ending his baseball career. Wade ruined his life, and Pruitt would do anything to ruin Wade’s. Brady Weller doesn’t know what to think about Wade. Brady is the guardian ad litem for Easter and her little sister Ruby–someone assigned by the courts to watch out for their best interests after their mother died from a drug overdose.

As This Dark Road to Mercy opens, Wade reappears in Easter and Ruby’s lives. He has heard that their mother died, and he thinks that he and the girls can be a family again. But it’s not just his ex-wife’s death that has spurred Wade into action. He has a stash of money–money that he stole from the original thief. With this stake, he thinks he can start anew–with the girls, and in a new place. Wade easily spirits his daughters away from the group home where they’ve been living, but before long both Pruitt and Weller are on his trail.  The action moves from Gastonia to the coast, down to Myrtle Beach, and then on to St. Louis, where a pivotal scene takes place. At times the book reads like a road-trip novel and Easter’s occasional narration adds humor, but this is a novel about serious issues: the ties of family, the darkness of the human heart, and the hope that many people have that they can outrun their past. Cash mixes in references to North Carolina minor league baseball teams, the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire home run race of 1998, and echoes of the 1997 armored car robbery that occurred in Gaston County, all of which clearly center his story in time and place. This Dark Road to Mercy is hard to categorize but easy to enjoy.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Cash, Wiley, Gaston, Piedmont

Annis Ward Jackson. Blind Malice. North Carolina: Annis Ward Jackson, 2009.

blindIt’s every adult child’s nightmare: an elderly parent, isolated and confused, mishandles his financial affairs and winds up deeply in debt.  Rachel Myers never expected that to happen to her father Paul.  Yes, Paul was blind, but with the help of a housekeeper and a longtime farm hand and friend, Isaac Starling, he managed his mountain farm.  Rachel, who lives in Arizona, felt some pull to come home, but she knew she would never find a job in the mountains as good as the managerial job that she has in Flagstaff.

Only when Paul dies and Rachel comes back to North Carolina to bury him does she find out how bad Paul’s situation had become.  Rachel learns from Isaac that her father fired his longtime housekeeper soon after a local banker, Ed McKinney, became a frequent visitor to the farm.  And the farm itself has changed–the cattle have been sold and the house and surrounding yard have had expensive improvements that surprise Rachel.  But the biggest surprise is that Paul Myers died in debt to the tune of $230,000.  How did this happen–and does it have anything to do with the surveyor’s stakes that dot the nearby hill?  As Rachel looks into her father’s financial affairs, time and again she is led back to Ed McKinney and his puzzling influence on her father.

This is the first book in a  series of ten novels by Ms. Jackson, all set along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Watch this site for summaries of later books in the series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

A Walk to Remember: Nicholas Sparks’ New Bern

The WeddingWant to walk in the footsteps of some of your favorite Nicholas Sparks lovers? The City of New Bern has designed a “Walk to Remember Tour” based around three of Sparks’ novels: A Bend in the Road, The Wedding, and The Notebook. The tour is self-guided and highlights fifteen spots around New Bern. A copy of the tour guide is available on the City of New Bern website along with a short video showing a glimpse of Nicholas Sparks’ new home.                          The Notebook

Although not a North Carolinian by birth, Nicholas Sparks has lived in New Bern for many years, and as his fans are probably well aware, Sparks has been heavily influenced by the state. All seventeen of his novels are set in various locations around North Carolina, predominantly in small cities and towns and around the coast. Sparks has also influenced North Carolina. He and his wife established the Epiphany School of Global Studies and donated a track to New Bern High School.

A Bend in the RoadNew Bern, the second oldest town in North Carolina and birth place of Pepsi, boasts a lot of state firsts: movie theater, printing press, public bank, bookstore, postal service, capital. The town has more than 150 sites officially recorded in the National Register of Historic Places. With spring break coming up, Nicholas Sparks fans and history buffs might be interested in mingling fact with fiction in New Bern.

Read some of the blog’s past posts on Nicholas Sparks novels here.

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Filed under Coast, Craven, Romance/Relationship, Sparks, Nicholas