Message in a Bottle
is a 1998 romance novel, the second written by American author Nicholas Sparks. Theresa Osborne is grieving the end of her eight-year marriage. One day, she finds a bottle on the shore containing a letter and is shocked by the passion and love expressed in the letter. She publishes the letter and soon discovers others, attracting the attention of the author, Garrett Blake, a fisherman. They soon develop a passionate romance, although both are hesitant to begin another relationship. Garrett is still mourning his deceased wife, and there are many bumps along the way. Exploring themes of love, distance, fate, and overcoming grief, Message in a Bottle
, one of Sparks’ most successful novels, was adapted into a 1999 film starring Kevin Costner and Robin Wright.
As Message in a Bottle
begins, Theresa Osborne, the single mother of a twelve-year-old son and a recent divorcée, is on a rare vacation and running along the beach. She is thinking that she misses being married—not her husband specifically but having a constant companion. While she jogs, she notices a bottle on the beach. Inside is a love letter. She finds it one of the most powerful things she has ever read. She shows it to her friend and her editor. They convince her to publish it in the parenting column she writes for the Boston Times
. The public reaction is overwhelming; she returns from vacation to countless people wanting to know more. A woman calls claiming to have another letter by the same author. Fascinated by the letter, Theresa does research into the topic and finds a third letter quoted in an article. She goes to the author of the article and gets a copy. The information from the three letters allows her to track down the author, Garrett Blake. Her editor, Deanna, convinces her to go to Wilmington, North Carolina, to meet with Garrett, and Theresa reluctantly agrees.
Theresa arrives in Wilmington and heads to Island Diving, the diving shop owned by Garrett. She sees his picture in the shop, along with articles about his career as a diver, and mentions of his wife, who died a year after they restored an antique boat together. She goes to the boat, the Happenstance
, and meets Garrett. They are immediately attracted to each other, and Garrett impulsively invites Theresa for a sail on his boat. That trip leads to them having lunch the following day, followed by a dinner date, and soon they are inseparable. Theresa and Garrett spend four days together before Theresa returns to Boston, and three weeks later, she returns with her son, Kevin, in tow. Garrett teaches mother and son to scuba dive. However, after that trip, they find it hard to maintain their relationship. Theresa, busy at work, is forced to cancel a Thanksgiving trip due to a meeting with a powerful newspaper syndicate. This keeps her from meeting Garrett’s father for the first time.
When Garrett visits Theresa, she tells him that her column has been picked up by a prominent national syndicate thanks to the attention the letters brought. Her career is taking off and will take up much more of her time. Garrett asks Theresa to step away and move to Wilmington to be with him. Theresa is upset, worried that this is just another passionate romance that will end painfully like her marriage. She goes for a walk, and Garrett goes into her room to search for paper to write her a letter. He finds the three letters he wrote and learns that she published one of them. He becomes convinced that their romance was not genuine, that she only wanted to meet him and seduce him to help her career. He leaves in anger and heads back to Wilmington.
Theresa heads back to Wilmington to explain to Garrett about the letters, but they argue. She tells him that she does not think he will ever be over his late wife, Catherine. Unwilling to live in that shadow, she tells Garrett that she thinks they should end their relationship now before they hurt each other more. She drives away, although Garrett tries to chase her down to stop her. A few days later, Theresa gets a call from Garrett’s father, Jeb, telling her that Garrett had gone sailing during a storm and drowned. Jeb asks her to come back to Wilmington for the funeral. A week later, she receives a package in the mail from Garrett, mailed before his death. There is one last message in a bottle, telling her that he realizes that it was Catherine who brought them together and that it is time to let her go. He was going out on the Happenstance
to send one last letter to Catherine, and then he would devote himself to Theresa. One year later, Catherine writes a letter to Garrett and sends it out via a message in a bottle, thanking him for teaching her how to go on with her life despite her grief.
Nicholas Sparks is an American novelist, screenwriter, and producer, the author of eighteen novels and two nonfiction books. The majority of his novels fall into the romantic drama genre, and he is one of the most successful romance writers in American history. Eleven of his eighteen novels have been adapted into successful motion pictures. He is perhaps best known for the romantic drama The Notebook
. Highly active in charity work, he is the founder of The Epiphany School of Global Studies in New Bern, North Carolina.