Home > Every Breath(2)

Every Breath(2)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

“Yeah,” he finally offered. “I wrote it.”

“Is it true?”

He squinted, as if evaluating me.

“Some of it,” he admitted, in the accent I’d heard described in the pages. “Some might dispute the facts, but memories aren’t always about facts.”

I told him that I thought it might make for a fascinating book and launched into a series of passionate arguments. He listened in silence, his expression unreadable. For some reason, I felt anxious, almost desperate to persuade him. After an uncomfortable silence during which he seemed to be weighing my proposition, he finally spoke: He was willing to discuss the idea further, and perhaps even agree to my request, but only on the condition that he be the first to read the story. And if he didn’t like it, he wanted me to bury the pages. I hedged. Writing a book takes months, even years, of effort—but he held firm. In the end, I agreed. Truth be told, I understood his reasoning. If our positions had been reversed, I would have asked the same of him.

We went to the cottage then. I asked questions and received answers. I was provided again with a copy of the story, and I was shown the original drawings and letters that enlivened the past even more.

The conversation rolled on. He told the story well and saved the best for last. As evening fell, he showed me a remarkable item—a labor of love—that enabled me to visualize the events with detail and clarity, as if I’d been a witness to all that had happened. I also began to see how the words would appear on the page, as if the story were writing itself and my role was simply to transcribe it.

Before I left, he requested that real names not be used. He had no desire for fame—he considered himself a private person—but more than that, he knew that the story had the potential to open old, and new, wounds. The events, after all, hadn’t taken place in isolation. There were living people involved, some of whom might be upset by the revelations. I have honored his request because I believe that the story has larger value and meaning: the power to remind us that there are times when destiny and love collide.

I began working on the novel soon after that first evening we spent together. In the year that followed, whenever I had questions, I called or visited. I toured the locations, or at least those that hadn’t been lost to history. I went through newspaper archives and examined photographs taken more than twenty-five years earlier. To flesh out even more details, I spent a week at a bed and breakfast in a small coastal town in eastern North Carolina and traveled as far as Africa. I was fortunate in that time seems to move more slowly in both of those regions; there were moments when I felt as if I had actually journeyed deep into the past.

My trip to Zimbabwe was especially helpful. I’d never been to that particular country and was overwhelmed by the spectacular wildlife. The country had once been called the breadbasket of Africa, but by the time of my visit, much of the agricultural infrastructure had decayed and the economy had collapsed for largely political reasons. I walked among crumbling farmhouses and fallow fields, dependent on my imagination as to how verdant the land had been when the story first began. I also spent three weeks on various safaris, absorbing everything around me. I spoke to guides and scouts and spotters, discussing their training and their daily lives; I speculated on how challenging it must be for them to maintain families, since they spend most of their time in the bush. I confess, I found Africa utterly seductive. Since those trips, I’ve often felt the urge to return, and I know I will before long.

In spite of all the research, there’s much that remains unknown. Twenty-seven years is a long period of time, and to re-create verbatim an ancient conversation between two people is impossible. Nor is it possible to recall with accuracy each and every step a person takes, or the position of the clouds in the sky, or the rhythm of the waves as they roll up on the shore. What I can say is that what follows next is the best I can possibly do under such constraints. Since I made further alterations for the purposes of privacy, I’m comfortable describing this book as a novel and not a work of nonfiction.

The genesis, research, and creation of this book has been one of the more memorable experiences of my life. In some ways, it’s transformed the way I think about love. I suspect that most people harbor a lingering sense of What if I’d followed my heart?, and there’s no way to ever really know the answer. A life, after all, is simply a series of little lives, each of them lived one day at a time, and every single one of those days has choices and consequences. Piece by piece, those decisions help to form the people we become. I’ve captured some fragments to the best of my ability, but who is to say that the picture I’ve assembled is a true portrait of who the couple really was?

There will always be doubters when it comes to love. Falling in love is the easy part; making that love last amid life’s varied challenges is an elusive dream for many. But if you read this story with the same sense of wonder that I felt when writing it, then perhaps your faith in the uncanny force that love can exert on people’s lives will be renewed. You might even find your way to Kindred Spirit one day, with a story of your own to tell…one that has the power to change someone else’s life in ways you never imagined possible.

Nicholas Sparks

September 2, 2017



On the morning of September 9, 1990, Tru Walls stepped outside and surveyed a morning sky that was the color of fire near the horizon. The earth was cracked beneath his feet and the air was dry; it hadn’t rained in more than two months. Dust clung to his boots as he made his way to the pickup he’d owned for more than twenty years. Like his footwear, the truck was covered in dust, both inside and out. Beyond a fence topped with electric wire, an elephant pulled branches from a tree that had toppled earlier that morning. Tru paid it no attention. It was part of the landscape of his birth—his ancestors had emigrated from England more than a century earlier—and he was no more startled than a fisherman spotting a shark as the daily catch was pulled in. He was lean, with dark hair and squint lines at the corners of his eyes earned by a life spent in the sun; at forty-two, he sometimes wondered whether he’d chosen to live in the bush or the bush had chosen him.

The camp was quiet; the other guides—including Romy, his best friend—had left earlier that morning for the main lodge, where they would ferry guests from around the world into the bush. Tru had worked at the lodge in Hwange National Park for the past ten years; prior to that, his existence had been more nomadic, with changes in lodges every couple of years as he’d gained more experience. As a rule, he’d avoided only those lodges that allowed hunting, something his grandfather wouldn’t understand. His grandfather—who was referred to by everyone as the Colonel, though he never served in the military—claimed to have killed more than three hundred lions and cheetahs in his lifetime while protecting livestock on the massive family farm near Harare where Tru had been raised; his stepfather and half brothers were steadily making progress toward that same number. In addition to cattle, Tru’s family cultivated various crops, harvesting more tobacco and tomatoes than any other farm in the country. Coffee, too. His great-grandfather had worked with the legendary Cecil Rhodes—mining magnate, politician, and emblem of British imperialism—accumulating land, money, and power in the late nineteenth century, before Tru’s grandfather took over.

His grandfather, the Colonel, inherited a thriving enterprise from his father, but after World War II, the business expanded exponentially, making the Walls family one of the wealthiest in the country. The Colonel had never understood Tru’s desire to escape what was by then a bona fide business empire and life of considerable luxury. Before he’d died—Tru had been twenty-six at the time—he’d once visited a reserve where Tru had been working. Though he had slept at the main lodge rather than the guide camp, seeing Tru’s living quarters had been a shock to the old man. He’d surveyed a dwelling that he probably regarded as little better than a shack, without insulation or telephones. A kerosene lantern provided lighting, and a small communal generator powered a miniature refrigerator. It was a far cry from the home where Tru had been raised, but the austere surroundings were all Tru needed, especially as evening descended and an ocean of stars appeared overhead. In fact, they were a step up from a few of the previous camps where he’d worked; in two of those, he’d slept in a tent. Here, at least, there was running water and a shower, which he considered something of a luxury, even if they were in a communal bathroom.

On this morning, Tru carried his guitar in its battered case; a lunch box and thermos; a handful of drawings he’d made for his son, Andrew; and a knapsack containing a few days’ worth of clothing, toiletries, drawing pads, colored and charcoal pencils, and his passport. Though he’d be gone for about a week, he figured it was all he would need.

His truck was parked beneath a baobab tree. A few of his fellow guides were fond of the dry, pulpy fruit. They’d mix it into their porridge in the morning, but Tru had never developed a taste for it. Tossing his knapsack onto the front seat, he checked the bed of the truck, making sure there was nothing in the back that could be stolen. Though he’d leave the truck at the family farm, there were more than three hundred field workers there, all of whom made very little money. Good tools were prone to vanishing into the ether, even under the watchful eyes of his family.

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