Sometimes it’s fun to just spend the day reading. So I did that recently on a perfect spring day. There was a light breeze, it was about 75 degrees outside, and I opened up all of the doors and windows to give the house a good, old-fashioned spring airing-out. I made a pot of coffee, tuned the radio to my favorite smooth jazz station, and settled into my comfortable chair on my deck for a relaxing afternoon of reading. Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas was the perfect choice for such a peaceful, relaxing spring day.
Katie Wilkinson has found her perfect man at last. He’s a writer, a house painter, an original thinker — everything she’s imagined she wanted in a partner. But one day, without explanation, he disappears from her life, leaving behind only a diary for her to read.
This diary is a love letter written by a new mother named Suzanne for her baby son, Nicholas. In it, she pours out her heart about how she and the boy’s father met, about her hopes for marriage and family, and about the unparalleled joy that having a baby has brought into her life. As Katie reads this touching document, it becomes clear that the lover who has just left her is the husband and father in this young family. She reads on, filled with terror and hope, as she struggles to understand what has happened — and whether her new love has a prayer of surviving.
Written with James Patterson’s perfect pitch for emotion and suspense, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas captures beautifully the joys of a new family as it builds to an overwhelmingly moving climax. This is an unforgettable love story, at once heartbreaking and full of hope.
This was the first James Patterson book I ever read, although I have seen a few movies based on his books, including The Lake House, Kiss the Girls, and Along Came a Spider.
I read Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas in one afternoon. It is a short book (266 pages) and the story zips along quickly. The characters are neither fully developed nor particularly unique. Both of the major female characters, Katie and Suzanne, are stereotypical — educated professionals seeking more in their lives than just successful careers. They want love, marriage, and children, of course. The man of their dreams, Matt, could have been nicknamed “McDreamy,” and is portrayed as practically perfect in every way. Except that the reader is left wondering, for the vast majority of the book, whether he is a hero or bum. That question is eventually answered, but raises another question: By that time, will the average reader care? Along the way, the story features encounters with helpful neighbors, as well as a whole community of folks who adore all three protagonists, in addition to the obligatory best friends and parents who love them unconditionally.
The story was predictable. Although I refrained from sneaking a peak at the last page, the words I found when I reached it were the precise words I expected to find.
Although Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas was a pleasant diversion, it is not the kind of book I tend to enjoy most. I love morally ambiguous characters and plots structured around real societal issues. This story was strictly romantic, focused on the idea that life sometimes gives us second chances and we have to recognize and accept the opportunity to be happy again after surviving devastatingly tragic events. The key to a happy life, according to Patterson, is prioritization, as Suzanne explains:
Imagine a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.
This is a book to read on a day like mine (described above) — when you are tired and want something light, entertaining, and not mentally taxing to read. It’s the kind of lightweight fare I sometimes throw into my bag when I plan to spend some time lounging by the pool or at the beach, especially if I am on vacation. I agree with one reviewer who described it this way: It is “[g]ood enough to lightly pluck the heartstrings and to impress with its craft and its calculation. . . . [But it] sloshes with sentiment (some of it quite icky) and simple spiritual truths, while acknowledging the reality of pain and loss.”
I read Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review Challenge.