Trevor Benson’s psyche is healing after surviving a traumatizing explosion while serving as a Navy surgeon in Afghanistan. While he regains his balance, his heart and sense of self brings him both healing and a sense of purpose as he copes with returning to a small North Carolina town to settle his deceased grandfather’s affairs and a few other small-town mysteries.
I found this book, The Return (Grand Central Publishing, 2020) by Nicholas Sparks, entertaining but not quite emotionally riveting. I felt Trevor’s character was a bit flat in places. Perhaps it was the author’s intent to present Trevor as a bit aloof and underwhelming but I found his character lacking somehow. It was like the author scripted Trevor after reading a PTSD treatment manual. The author described, in much detail, Trevor’s behavioral protocols like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). I felt it waded in the weeds of treatment nomenclature and distracted from the story contextually.
I also did not obtain a solid description of Trevor in a visual sense and while the author did describe some visual content, I felt The Return left out more than what was written.
In all fairness, I did like the other characters, how the author described his love for nature and his neighbors and caring for his deceased grandfather and drive to find answers was believable and authentic. The focus on Callie’s welfare was also believable; his attraction for Natalie seemed a bit flat. It was as if the author did not know how to balance Trevor’s emotions in a manner that would be believable to the reader. The exceptions to the sparse imagery was the wildlife and the beekeeping scenes and how Trevor described Natalie.
The best part of this book was the location and learning about beekeeping. The town and it’s residents provided this reader a good sense of time and place and season as the story progressed. Overall, the reader would say The Return is a forgettable beach book or something to pick up while traveling.
Disclaimer: I was a PTSD counselor for ten years and this could also lend to my opinion on it being a bit too clinical for the general reader.