The Choice Summary

Nicholas Sparks

The Choice

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

The Choice Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of  The Choice by Nicholas Sparks.

Nicholas Sparks is known for writing endearing love stories with poignant endings, often with a twist. His novel, The Choice is a classic example. Considered one of the most popular and beloved writers of modern fiction, his eighteen novels have all been New York Times bestsellers and many have been made into films, including The Choice, which was released in February of 2016.

The novel consists of a prologue, two parts, and an epilogue. The prologue starts us off in the present day of February 2007 (the year the book was published,) eleven years after the main events of the story. Travis Parker, a forty-three-year-old successful veterinarian is reminiscing about the tales his father would tell him when he was a child and how he would always ask that each story be “the best one ever.” He considers how his life up to the present has actually been the best story ever, but wonders what will happen next, hinting at some dark event now plaguing him.

Travis parks his car at the hospital where his wife has worked for the last ten years and heads inside with a bouquet of flowers, apparently an apology for an argument they had three months’ prior — the last time the two spoke. Travis’ sad contemplations end the epilogue and lead into part one.

In part one of the novel, the story flashes back to May of 1996 when Travis was thirty-two and living and working happily in his hometown of Beaufort, North Carolina (where the story takes place,) spending time with his childhood friends Matt, Joe, and Laird. Although single while his friends are married, Travis has no regrets about bachelorhood, enjoying life with his friends and their families. The group often wonders if Travis has commitment issues, but he feels he simply hasn’t met the right person yet.

Into this idyllic life marches Gabby Holland, a physician’s assistant who has moved to the town to be closer to her boyfriend, Kevin, and who is now living right next door to Travis. Unfortunately, Travis’ first introduction to Gabby is when she marches over to his house and accuses his dog, Moby, of getting her dog, Molly, pregnant. Already harboring an unflattering view of Travis, thinking him inconsiderate and irresponsible after she hears his music playing loudly and she gets knocked down by his dog, Gabby lets loose with an emotional rant. Unable to get a word in edge-wise, Travis lets Gabby have her say, and then suggests she take Molly to the local veterinarian. A disgruntled Gabby leaves and Stephanie, Travis’ younger sister who had been listening from the house, is quick to suggest that her big brother finds the new neighbor attractive.

Gabby brings Molly to the veterinary clinic, which turns out to be run by Travis and his father, also a veterinarian. Gabby is taken aback to learn that the neighbor she initially pegged as an irresponsible loafer is actually a well-respected vet. She is even more chagrined when she learns that Moby was neutered two years prior. Feeling rather ashamed, Gabby can only apologize for her behavior and marvel at Travis’ forgiving nature. She also can’t help but notice that Travis is rather attractive. She leaves and Travis watches her go, amused by the whole thing.

From this contentious beginning, part one of the book follows the growing attraction of the two characters as they try to resist the natural chemistry between them. Gabby, in particular, is at odds with her growing feelings for Travis due to her long-time relationship with Kevin, who is a nice guy but who isn’t truly the right guy. Gabby is forced to choose between the two men, and she eventually breaks it off with Kevin to take a chance with Travis. This is the first clear occurrence in the book of the overall pervading theme: the choices we must make in life and how far we’ll go for true love. This portends a much larger choice that Travis will face later in the book.

As Travis and Gabby spend more time together, they quickly fall in love. This almost instantaneous recognition of true love is a common element in many of Sparks’ books, where the existence of love-at-first-sight is undeniable. By the end of part one, that true love has conquered their resistances and Travis and Gabby become lovers.

In part two, the story returns to February of 2007 as Travis comes out of his memories to deal with the present. Through Travis’ inner thoughts we learn that he and Gabby eventually married and had two little girls, Lisa (6) and Christine (8). His memories make it clear they lived a nearly perfect life until a car accident three months previous sent Gabby into a coma. Travis’ cryptic reference to some difficult decision he is there to make finally becomes clear.

Years before, Travis and Gabby made out living wills insisting they not be kept on life support after a given amount of time. That time has passed, and now Travis is faced with the worst decision of his life: honor Gabby’s wishes, or use the fact that the only ones who know about the will are Gabby, Stephanie, an absentee lawyer, and himself, in order to put her in a long-term care facility with the hope she will awaken. In the end, he simply cannot bring himself to pull the plug.

Here the novel moves into the epilogue, taking us four months forward to June. Having moved Gabby into a nursing facility, Travis has managed to resume some normalcy for the sake of his daughters, going back to work part-time. One day, he receives the shocking news that Gabby is awake. Rushing to the hospital, Travis wrestles with fears of brain damage and relapse, but to his joy he finds Gabby awake and well. Once back home, it takes time for everyone to adjust to Gabby’s presence, but eventually Travis accepts that his true love and happy life have, indeed, returned.