Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas
(2001) by James Patterson follows Katie Wilkinson, a woman whose boyfriend, Matthew Harrison (Matt), recently broke up with her, leaving behind a diary to explain his actions. As she reads, Katie begins recognizes that the writer of the diary is Matt's wife and Nicholas, the diary's recipient, is his son.
As the story opens, Katie is in the bathtub in her New York apartment as she finishes reading the diary. Her cat and her dog stand by as Katie starts to cry. Katie visualizes the woman who wrote the diary, Suzanne. She thinks of Suzanne's one-year-old son, Nicholas, then of Matt, Suzanne's husband, and Nicholas' dad. Matt is also Katie's former lover.
Katie remembers the day she received the diary. It was July 19, and Matt had broken up with her the night before. She reminisces on what a good partner he was, enjoying all of the same restaurants and movies, and going with her to church on Sundays. He lived on Martha's Vineyard and had never allowed her to visit him. Still, Katie was anticipating that he would propose soon when, instead, he broke up with her.
Katie took the 19th off from work, devastated by the break-up. Returning from a ferry trip, she finds a package propped against the door. Inside is a diary that reads in hand-written letters "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas." There is a note inside from Matt telling Katie that the diary will explain everything and that he never expected to fall in love with Katie, but he did.
The diary opens with Suzanne speaking to Nicholas. She tells him that she wants to write him a diary so that he will know who she is and that she will also make a videotape for him every year. Suzanne, a physician, describes a day when she went to the park with her dog, Gus. She chases Gus and has a sudden heart attack. She has a family history of heart disease. After the heart attack, Suzanne's boyfriend, Michael, decides to leave her because he doesn't think she can have a baby now and he is already involved with someone else.
Suzanne tells Nicholas the "Story of the Five Balls." She imagines that life is a game of juggling five balls (work, family, health, friends, and integrity). She realizes that the work ball is actually rubber and the other four are made of glass. If you drop work, it will bounce back, but if you drop one of the other balls, it may shatter or chip beyond repair. With this philosophy in mind, Suzanne quits her job and moves to Martha's Vineyard, where she meets Matt. She and Matt had previously dated in high school, and he comes upon her when she has a flat tire. They court, marry, and have a baby named Nicholas.
As Katie is reading the diary, she questioning whether Matt was cheating on Suzanne with her. She is Matt's editor for his new collection of poetry and the order for his latest book is more substantial than usual. The night Matt broke up with her, she had been preparing to tell him the good news about his book and that she's pregnant with his child. She never had the chance, as Matt saw the laden table and quickly left.
A diary entry by Matt answers all of Katie's questions. Matt describes how his wife died of a heart attack and how he reaches into Nicholas's crib to find it empty. Suzanne suffered a heart attack while driving, and both she and Nicholas died in the accident. Matt writes to Katie that he is in mourning over the loss of his family.
Katie takes the ferry to Martha's Vineyard to find Matt. He is not there but returns later, and he and Katie reconcile.
The novel was adapted into a movie called James Patterson's Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas
, which aired on CBS in 2005. Christina Applegate starred as Suzanne, Kathleen Rose Perkins as Katie, and Johnathon Schaech as Matt.Publisher's Weekly
writes, "The novel sloshes with sentiment (some of it quite icky) and simple spiritual truths, while acknowledging the reality of pain and loss: rose bushes galore, with thorns. Patterson sustains suspense through clever plotting."
The novel is Patterson's first romance, most of his books belonging to the mystery thriller genre. He used some of his own heartbreak to inspire the book, having lost his long-time partner Jame Blanchard to a brain tumor in 1974. He now has a son named Jack with his wife, Susan. Susan wrote a diary to Jack, giving Patterson the idea for Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas.
Patterson is best known for his Alex Cross
thrillers, which follow detective Alex Cross as he faces off with criminals and endeavors to solve complex mysteries.