Sparks (The Notebook, 1996; Message in a Bottle, 1998) carries on in his determined effort to make people cry, this time with an old premise, slow windup, and wobbly pitch. In 1958, high-school senior Landon Carter is 17. Even though his father is a US Congressman, Landon’s best friends are on the taunting, swaggering side—football players and such, who hang around at the local drive-in and flaunt their disrespect. So it’s strange indeed when Landon gets involved with the nicest girl in town—classmate Jamie Sullivan, who carries a Bible everywhere she goes, does endless good deeds, and is the only child of the widowed Rev. Hegbert Sullivan, the churchman whom Landon and gang love to throw taunts after from hiding places behind trees. But Landon has enrolled in a drama class (for the easy A), and that class is responsible for putting on the annual Christmas play, written by Hegbert, which will be special this year because the author’s beloved daughter will have the female lead’she’s an angel who ministers to a sorrow-filled widower. When Jamie asks Landon if he won—t please be the male lead, what can he say? And what can he do, as rehearsals go on, when he starts not only respecting Jamie, but liking her? Embarrassing as it is before his friends, Landon starts helping her do good deeds, and, on performance night, seeing her true beauty for the first time, falls in love with her. Oh, say it isn—t so’since great, deep sorrow lies ahead. For Jamie has a secret that, when she tells it to her loving Landon, explains everything—the Bible she carries, new meanings in the Christmas play, even Jamie’s reasons for finding it really special this year. Sparks pulls out all the stops as Landon, from a vantage of 40 years later, tells the story out to its teary end. Weepy wisdom aimed at the holiday trade.