“Everyone wanted to believe that endless love was possible. She’d believed in it once, too, back when she was eighteen.”

In the spring of 1984, high school students Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole fell deeply, irrevocably in love. Though they were from opposite sides of the tracks, their love for one another seemed to defy the realities of life in the small town of Oriental, North Carolina. But as the summer of their senior year came to a close, unforeseen events would tear the young couple apart, setting them on radically divergent paths.

Now, twenty-five years later, Amanda and Dawson are summoned back to Oriental for the funeral of Tuck Hostetler, the mentor who once gave shelter to their high school romance. Neither has lived the life they imagined . . . and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever changed their lives. As Amanda and Dawson carry out the instructions Tuck left behind for them, they realize that everything they thought they knew—about Tuck, about themselves, and about the dreams they held dear—was not as it seemed. Forced to confront painful memories, the two former lovers will discover undeniable truths about the choices they have made. And in the course of a single, searing weekend, they will ask of the living, and the dead: Can love truly rewrite the past?

    Inspiration for The Best of Me

    When I set out to write this novel, I knew I wanted to focus on middle-aged characters—people in their forties who are really beginning to confront the “what-if” questions, and who are starting to second-guess the choices they made when they were younger. For Amanda, this is asking herself what would’ve happened if she married the man she loved rather than the someone else?
    I actually first used a funeral to bring old friends together in an old, unfinished manuscript, but I used it again in The Best of Me because it was a natural fit with these characters. When someone dies, it really prompts those what-if questions—it makes you look long and hard at the life you are living in a way that I think is essential to Amanda’s and Dawson’s growth throughout the book. With these big questions in mind, the story began to develop in my head and, eventually, on the page.

    Oriental, NC

    Oriental, NC

    The town of Oriental, North Carolina sits along the Neuse River and is widely regarded as the "Sailing Capitol" of North Carolina. In Oriental, it seems that boating season never ends with year-round sailing, cruising, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and there are regattas just about every month of the year.

     Oriental, NC is not just for boating enthusiasts - here you can find just about anything to do from historical walking tours, cycling, a history museum, art galleries, restaurants, specialty shops, concerts, plays, and so much more. 

     If you're passing through Oriental, be forewarned, as many of those just stopping for the night have found themselves making it their home port largely due to it's friendly atmosphere and it's quirky way of celebrating the holidays!

    The Best of Me - audio excerpt

    Book FAQs

    • This book deals with falling in love for the first time and how sometimes that love is so strong it can cross the span of time and space no matter what happens. Is that something you believe in?

      Yes, I believe it’s possible. First love is always powerful, and for some people, that love really does last forever. The problem with that, however, is that over time, the love often becomes romanticized. I wanted to write a novel that explored that concept as well. Neither Dawson nor Amanda are the same people they’d been when they were younger, and little by little, that romanticism diminishes over the course of the story. For them, however, the new reality nonetheless left them feeling the same way about each other as they once had. And yet, they fell in love once more. Or maybe, phrasing it differently, they never fell out of love in the first place.

    • Former high school sweethearts Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole reconnect after 25 years when their mentor, Tuck Hostetler, dies and they are summoned back to Oriental, North Carolina for his funeral. One of things that drove Amanda and Dawson apart was that they were from the opposite side of the tracks. Are class differences still a part of everyday life in a town like Oriental, North Carolina?

      Class differences aren’t as powerful as they once were, but they’re still prevalent. I don’t know, however, if it’s limited to places like Oriental, and nor do I see it as entirely and without question a terrible thing. People who intend to spend their lives together should have things in common, and like it or not, class is, and always has been, part of that, because it shapes the people that we are.

      With Amanda and Dawson—and many others in the real world, of course—the class differences were less important than their similarities. Neither one of them got along with their parents, both were intelligent, both had dreams, and over the years, both of them had disappointments.

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