A Walk to Remember Summary
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A Walk to Remember was published in 1999 by American novelist Nicholas Sparks. It takes place between 1958 to 1959 in Beaufort, North Carolina. The story tells of two teenagers who fall in love, even though they have very dissimilar personalities. The novel is told in the first person voice of Landon Carter. The title comes from a line near the end of the book which reads, “In every way, a walk to remember.” Although the story is mostly fictional, Sparks was inspired to write the novel by the experiences of his sister Danielle Sparks Lewis who died of cancer in 2000.
The main story is framed with a prologue from the fifty-six-year-old Landon, who looks back at the time he was a seventeen-year-old high school senior, the son of a congressman. Landon’s father is frequently away as he must spend much of his time in Washington, D.C. While his father is outgoing, Landon is shy, which causes some tension in their relationship. At his father’s urging and with the help of his best friend Eric Hunter, Landon runs for, and is elected, class president. One of his duties as president involves attending a school dance with a date, but he is unable to obtain one. With nobody left to ask, he turns to Jamie Sullivan, who is the daughter of Hegbert Sullivan, the local minister. The highly religious Jamie accepts his invitation. The popular Landon finds himself somewhat embarrassed while accompanying Jamie, who always carries a Bible with her. By the end of the evening, however, Landon realizes that she was a good choice as a date.
After a few days pass, Jamie asks Landon to join her in the school Christmas production. He reluctantly agrees. Jamie is excited about his joining her but he fears the ridicule he will face if his friends find out about it. Walking Jamie home after rehearsals becomes a regular part of Landon’s routine. When, one afternoon, Eric teases Landon about the time he spends with Jamie, he becomes embarrassed again, however, he continues to spend time with Jamie. Landon learns more about how much she helps others, including the time she spends at an orphanage, which they suggest as a venue for the school Christmas play before their proposal is rejected by Mr. Jenkins. While they are waiting for Mr. Jenkins, Jamie tells Landon that all she wants for her future is a church wedding where her father walks her down the aisle. Landon finds this a bit unusual but accepts it, as he increasingly enjoys his time with her.
As they are walking home one day, Landon tells Jamie that they are not friends, yet at the performance of the Christmas play the next day, when he delivers a line telling Jamie’s character that she is beautiful, he knows that he really means it. Later, Jamie asks Landon to go around town and retrieve the jars that are used to collect donations for the orphanage. He finds that only fifty-five dollars and change had been collected. When he gives the money to Jamie, there is almost two-hundred and fifty dollars. The pair spends Christmas Eve at the orphanage and he invites Jamie to have Christmas dinner with his family. The day after Christmas, they share their first kiss at Jamie’s house. They eventually receive Hegbert’s permission to spend New Year’s Eve at a local restaurant, after Landon states his love for Jamie.
A couple of weeks into the new year, Jamie tells Landon that he cannot be in love with her. When he presses her for an explanation, she tells him that she is dying from leukemia. The next Sunday, Hegbert shares the news of his daughter’s condition with his congregation. Jamie is too sick to return to school after that. One evening, while having dinner at Landon’s house she tells him that she loves him too. Jamie refuses to stay at a hospital, saying she wants to die at home. Landon’s father helps obtain the best doctors and equipment to help her do so. This act of kindness helps to ease the tension between Landon and his father.
One day while sitting with the sleeping Jamie, Landon has an idea, and goes to the church to speak with Jamie’s father. He asks his permission to marry Jamie. Hegbert shows no enthusiasm, but does not deny Landon’s request either. Landon quickly returns to Jamie and asks her to marry him. They marry before a full church in fulfillment of Jamie’s dream. Although, at this point, she is really too weak to walk, she manages to walk down the aisle and her father is able to give her away. The story ends with Landon thinking back on that time, many years later, as he had done at the start of the book. He still wears Jamie’s ring.
On his website, Nicholas Sparks calls A Walk to Remember his favorite of all the books he has written. Ha notes, “I’m often asked which novel is my favorite, but that’s a question I can’t really answer. It’s like trying to choose between my children, and all I can say is that I like them all for different reasons.
I can say however, that A Walk to Remember was my favorite novel to write. I enjoyed the process of capturing the voice of a smart-alecky 17-year-old kid. Likewise with Jamie Sullivan. There was something intrinsically sweet about her character that gradually seemed to take over the book. It was also the only novel that made me cry while writing.”
"A Walk to Remember" is a love story so sweet, sincere and positive that it sneaks past the defenses built up in this age of irony. It tells the story of a romance between two 18-year-olds that is summarized when the boy tells the girl's doubtful father: "Jamie has faith in me. She makes me want to be different. Better." After all of the vulgar crudities of the typical modern teenage movie, here is one that looks closely, pays attention, sees that not all teenagers are as cretinous as Hollywood portrays them.
The singer Mandy Moore, a natural beauty in both face and manner, stars as Jamie Sullivan, an outsider at school who is laughed at because she stands apart, has values, and always wears the same ratty blue sweater. Her father (Peter Coyote) is a local minister. Shane West plays Landon Carter, a senior boy who hangs with the popular crowd but is shaken when a stupid dare goes wrong and one of his friends is paralyzed in a diving accident. He dates a popular girl and joins in the laughter against Jamie. Then, as punishment for the prank, he is ordered by the principal to join the drama club: "You need to meet some new people." Jamie's in the club. He begins to notice her in a new way. He asks her to help him rehearse for a role in a play. She treats him with level honesty. She isn't one of those losers who skulks around feeling put upon; her self-esteem stands apart from the opinion of her peers. She's a smart, nice girl, a reminder that one of the pleasures of the movies is to meet good people.
The plot has revelations that I will not reveal. Enough to focus on the way Jamie's serene example makes Landon into a nicer person--encourages him to become more sincere and serious, to win her where she approaches him while he's with his old friends and says, "See you tonight," and he says, "In your dreams." When he turns up at her house, she is hurt and angry, and his excuses sound lame even to him.
The movie walks a fine line with the Peter Coyote character, whose church Landon attends. Movies have a way of stereotyping reactionary Bible-thumpers who are hostile to teen romance. There is a little of that here; Jamie is forbidden to date, for example, although there's more behind his decision than knee-jerk strictness. But when Landon goes to the Rev. Sullivan and asks him to have faith in him, the minister listens with an open mind.
Yes, the movie is corny at times. But corniness is all right at times. I forgave the movie its broad emotion because it earned it. It lays things on a little thick at the end, but by then it had paid its way. Director Adam Shankman and his writer, Karen Janszen, working from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, have an unforced trust in the material that redeems, even justifies the broad strokes. They go wrong only three times: (1) The subplot involving the paralyzed boy should have either been dealt with, or dropped; (2) It's tiresome to make the black teenager use "brother" in every sentence, as if he is not their peer but was ported in from another world; (3) As Kuleshov proved more than 80 years ago in a famous experiment, when an audience sees an impassive closeup, it supplies the necessary emotion from the context. It can be fatal for an actor to try to "act" in a closeup, and Landon's little smile at the end is a distraction at a crucial moment.
Those are small flaws in a touching movie. The performances by Moore and West are so quietly convincing we're reminded that many teenagers in movies seem to think like 30-year-old standup comics. That Jamie and Landon base their romance on values and respect will blindside some viewers of the film, especially since the first five or 10 minutes seem to be headed down a familiar teenage movie trail. "A Walk to Remember" is a small treasure.