THE LAST SONG
BY NICHOLAS SPARKS
Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church.
Nicholas Charles Sparks was born in Omaha, Nebraska on December 31, 1965. As a child, he lived in Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Grand Island, Nebraska, finally settling in Fair Oaks, California at the age of eight. He lived in Fair Oaks through high school, graduated valedictorian in 1984, and received a full track scholarship to the University of Notre Dame.
After breaking the Notre Dame school record as part of a relay team in 1985 as a freshman (a record which still stands), he was injured and spent the summer recovering. During that summer, he wrote his first novel, though it was never published. He majored in Business Finance and graduated with high honors in 1988.
He and his wife Catherine, who met on spring break in 1988, were married in July, 1989. While living in Sacramento, he wrote his second novel that same year, though again, it wasn't published. In 1990, he collaborated on a book with Billy Mills, the Olympic Gold Medalist and it was published by Feather Publishing before later being picked up by Random House. (It was recently re-issued by Hay House Books.) Though it received scant publicity, sales topped 50,000 copies in the first year of release.
He began selling pharmaceuticals and moved from Sacramento, California to North Carolina in 1992. In 1994, at the age of 28, he wrote The Notebook over a period of six months. In October, 1995, rights to The Notebook were sold to Warner Books. It was published in October, 1996, and he followed that with Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), The Rescue (2000), A Bend in the Road (2001), and Nights in Rodanthe (2002), The Guardian (2003), The Wedding (2003), Three Weeks with my Brother (2004), True Believer (2005), At First Sight (2005), Dear John (2006), The Choice (2007), and The Lucky One (2008). All were domestic and international best sellers and were translated into more than 40 languages. His newest book, The Last Song will be made into a movie starring Miley Cyrus, in theaters in 2010.
The movie version of Message in a Bottle was released in 1999, A Walk to Remember was released in 2002, and The Notebook was released in 2004. The average domestic box office gross per film was $56 million -- with another $100 million in DVD sales—making the novels by Nicholas Sparks one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood. The film version of Nights in Rodanthe was released in the fall of 2008 and starred Diane Lane and Richard Gere. Forthcoming movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks' books include Dear John, The Lucky One and The Last Song.
Nichols Sparks is an avid athlete who runs daily, lifts weights regularly, and competes in Tae Kwon Do. He attends church regularly and reads approximately 125 books a year. He contributes to a variety of local and national charities, and is a major contributor to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame, where he provides scholarships, internships, and a fellowship annually.
He lives in North Carolina with his wife and children.
Nicholas Sparks once again takes readers to a gorgeous North Carolina beach for a love story whose main theme is love and relationships within a family. Ronnie Miller who is approaching her 18th birthday when her mother decides it is important that she spend time with her father. Thus, she is sent with her ten-year-old brother, Jonah, to spend the summer at the beach with him.
Veronica “Ronnie” Miller is furious at having to leave her “gothic” friends while her mother’s disapproval of Ronnie’s peers and activities, including an arrest for shoplifting, is the major reason she made the decision. Ronnie has never gotten over her parents’ divorce. Her father, Steve, taught piano at Julliard and his being on the road for concerts and appearances was a major factor in the break-up. Ronnie learned to play piano from Steve, but her musical training stopped when he left. Because of all this, Ronnie blames him for all her problems and hasn’t spoken to him since he left. Jonah, on the other hand, is very excited to be able to be with his father. He is a cute kid and adds some comic relief to the story as well as some poignant moments.
Upon arrival in North Carolina, Ronnie gets involved with the wrong crowd when she meets Blaze, whose rebellious nature makes Ronnie seem tame. Ronnie is drawn to the excitement and not until Blaze turns on her, does Ronnie realize the bad choices she is making. The story wouldn’t be complete without a “bad boy” for Ronnie to take up with, and Marcus fills that spot perfectly. He is trouble with a capital T! The other major character is Will, a clean-cut volleyball player, who falls hard for Ronnie but at first, she ignores him. Will doesn’t have it as perfect as it seems either as he also has secrets of his own to hide.
When Ronnie makes an amazing discovery on the beach, it not only brings her closer to her father, but opens things up for a relationship with Will. As Ronnie begins to soften around Will, she also realizes her father has asked them to come for the summer for a more significant reason than just a get-away from home.
Can Ronnie and her dad be reunited by the one thing they have in common - their piano-playing skills? Or, is their relationship beyond repair? As the characters’ lives come together and secrets are uncovered, the somewhat predictable plot is spelled out. However, the path that Ronnie takes with her dad is the only thing that can provide resolution and salvation, and therefore, bring the story full circle to its conclusion.
READING GROUP GUIDE:
1. Ronnie is a difficult teenager who is prone to acting out and is alienated from both her parents at the start of the novel. Were you rebellious as a teenager? How was this manifested? On the other side, have you ever had to deal with a rebellious teenager? Did Ronnie’s behavior touch a nerve?
2. What do you think about the very different approaches to parenting taken by Ronnie’s mother and father? Do you think Ronnie’s mother is too intrusive or can you understand her relationship with Ronnie? Do you think Ronnie’s father is too absent, or can you understand why the relationship is the way it is?
3. Early in the novel we learn that Ronnie was a piano prodigy who performed at Carnegie Hall when she was thirteen. However, when we meet Ronnie she hasn’t played in many years and she’s sworn to never play the piano again. Why does Ronnie feel this way? Who do you think Ronnie hurts more by not playing the piano, herself or her father?
4. Reflecting back on his life, Steve wonders: “Was it still possible for someone like him to experience the presence of God?” Why does Steve ask himself this? What role do religion and belief play in this novel? How would you characterize Steve’s religious faith?
5. Why does Will fall for Ronnie? Can you understand the attraction from both Ronnie’s and Will’s point of view?
6. What do you make of Blaze? How would you characterize her relationship with Marcus? Have you ever been in a relationship that was not particularly healthy? Did you stay in the relationship? If so, why?
7. Ronnie and Will fall in love very quickly over the course of the summer. Have you ever had a summer romance that became something more than a fling?
8. This novel is, in large part, about loyalty and trust. Which characters exhibit the most trustworthiness and which exhibit the least? How does a betrayal of trust affect various relationships within the novel?
9. In the middle of the novel, Will asks Ronnie how far she would go to protect a friend. Why does Will ask Ronnie this? How far would you go to protect a friend?
10. How are Jonah and Ronnie affected by their parents’ divorce? What effect does divorce have on children, in your experience?
11. Both Will and Ronnie come from families that have certain expectations of them. How do these familial expectations shape them and in what ways do they reject these expectations?
12. Why does Ronnie get angry at Will toward the end of the novel? Do you think her anger is justified?
13. What do you think of the choices Steve and Kim make as parents? Do you think they were right in keeping certain things secret from their children?
14. Ronnie makes an important choice at the end of the novel. Would you have made the same choice if you were in her position?
15. In what ways does Ronnie change over the course of the novel? In what ways does she stay the same?
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