The Sunflower
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The Sunflower

4.3 61
by Richard Paul Evans
     
 

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“It has been said, ‘Seek not your destiny for it is seeking you.’” So begins this new and powerful novel from Richard Paul Evans, #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box, The Walk series, and more.

In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose

Overview

“It has been said, ‘Seek not your destiny for it is seeking you.’” So begins this new and powerful novel from Richard Paul Evans, #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box, The Walk series, and more.

In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancé broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancée are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and heartbreak, they must confront their deepest fears and, together, learn to trust and love again.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Author of the smash The Christmas Box and spinoffs, Evans delivers an entertaining albeit syrupy picking-up-the-pieces romance. Heartbroken and bereft when her fiance backs out a week before the wedding, Christine Hollister allows herself to be talked into a volunteer work trip to Peru by best friend Jessica so that the pair can work together in an orphanage called the Sunflower. There she meets Paul Cook, the handsome but damaged former ER doc who left the U.S. after being blamed for a series of tragic Christmas deaths on the ward. The budding romance between Paul and Christine is totally predictable (including the awkwardness of their initial meetings). Evans adds a nice dramatic touch when Jessica's newfound boyfriend is seriously hurt while guiding a group of orphanage workers through the mountains near Machu Picchu, and he has a nice feel for framing devices, dialogue and scene-pacing. Evans also puts the jungle setting to good use during the couple's "dates." Although the various references to Christmas feel gratuitous, and a sudden appearance by jilter Martin doesn't do much to make the ending harder to anticipate, the finish nonetheless remains satisfying. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Love blooms for a young American woman and an expatriate doctor during a Peruvian jungle expedition. Jilted at the altar, timid dental hygienist Christine is strong-armed into a two-week Peruvian humanitarian trip by her adventurous best friend Jessica, who reasons that Christine will get over heartbreak only by giving of herself. Once she arrives at the tiny Cusco orphanage El Girasol, whose name means "sunflower" in Spanish, Christine is absorbed in work and discovers the problems and deprivations of the developing world. She befriends a deaf girl abandoned by her parents, and grows closer to the mysterious proprietor Paul. Himself the victim of heartbreak, Paul had left behind a promising medical career in America. He ends up guiding Christine's group through the jungle to an eco-lodge, where he helps his fragile lady friend overcome her fear of spiders and teaches her to "hunt" crocodiles. And when Christine comes down with a tropical fever, Paul uses his medical skills to save the woman he has already fallen in love with. After her recovery, Christine is forced to choose between love and the safety of her former life-the prospect is much scarier than spiders. This wholesome story from Evans (A Perfect Day, 2003, etc.) boasts an amazing setting but less successful are the preachy diary entries from Paul that contradict his laconic man-of-action persona. There is also a secondary plot involving child-sex trafficking that feels undeveloped. A romantic meditation on faith, redemption and public service.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743287029
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
06/19/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
143,226
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

Going to the jungle wasn't my idea. Had the thought actually crossed my mind, I would have immediately relegated it to that crowded portion of my brain where things I should do someday but thankfully never will are safely locked away to languish and die.

The idea was my daughter McKenna's. Three months before she graduated from high school, her sociology teacher, a graying, long-haired Haight-Ashbury throwback who had traded in his tie-dye T-shirts for tweed jackets with leather elbow patches presented to his class the opportunity to go to South America on a humanitarian mission. McKenna became obsessed with the idea and asked if I would accompany her on such an excursion -- kind of a daddy-daughter date in the Amazon.

I agreed. Not that I had any real desire or intention of going. I figured that she would soon graduate and her mind would be occupied with other concerns. I never believed it would really come about.

I should have known my daughter better. Four months later I found myself standing with her and a dozen of her former classmates in the Salt Lake City airport boarding a plane for Lima, Peru.

Unbeknownst to our little group, we had entrusted our lives to novices. We were the first group our expeditionary guides had actually led into the Amazon -- a fact we discovered twenty-four hours later deep in a jungle teeming with anacondas, jaguars and hand-sized spiders. Several times in the course of our expedition, our guide, an elderly Peruvian man, would suddenly stop, lay his machete at the foot of a tree, then climb above the jungle canopy for a look, each time descending with a somewhat perplexed expression.

After our third complete change of course I asked our guide (as tactfully as one being led through a jungle must) if he knew where he was going. In broken English the old man replied, "Yes, I have been here before..." then added, "when I was six."

During our hike we came upon the village of an Amazonian tribe, the Los Palmos. Overjoyed to learn that they were neither cannibals nor headhunters, we soon noticed that the population of the village included no young men, only women and the elderly. Our guide asked one of the natives where all the young men had gone.

"They have gone to town to kill the mayor," she replied.

"Why?" our guide asked.

"The mayor has said we can no longer cut the rainforest trees. We cannot live without the wood from the trees. So our men have gone to kill him."

"Do you think that's a good idea?" our guide asked.

The woman shrugged. "Probably not, but it's how things are done in the jungle."

There was something refreshing about her logic. I've never been overly fond of politics, and the image of painted tribesmen carrying spears and bows into town hall delighted me -- certainly something we don't see enough of in Salt Lake City. I still wonder how that all turned out.

Two days into our journey we ran out of food. For several days we lived on jungle fruit and the piranhas we caught in the river. (Piranha doesn't taste that bad -- kind of like chicken.)

I remember, as a boy, sitting spellbound through a Saturday afternoon matinee about a school of piranhas that terrorized a small jungle village. These Hollywood piranhas swam in conveniently slow-moving schools that cinematically frothed and bubbled on the surface, allowing the hero a chance to swim across the river and rescue a woman just inches ahead of the churning piranha death.

The piranhas we encountered in the jungle were nothing like that. First, Amazon piranhas are nearly as ubiquitous in the jungle as vegetation. Drop a fishing line in any jungle river and within seconds it will be bitten. Usually in half. Second, there are no warning bubbles.

Adding crocodiles, electric eels and leeches to the mix, we decided it best to just keep out of the water.

After several days of traveling we reached our destination, a small village where we established our clinic. The Quechuan natives were waiting for us.

The goal of our humanitarian mission was threefold: teach basic hygiene, fix teeth and correct vision. I was assigned to the latter. The optometrist who hiked in with us would conduct an eye examination, then hand me a written prescription for eyeglasses that I would attempt to fill from the bags of used eyewear we had packed into the jungle.

I remember one patient in particular. He was an elderly man, small featured and sun-baked, his skin as leathery as a baseball glove. And he had just one eye. As he was led from his exam to my station, the doctor handed me a blank prescription.

"What do I do with this?" I asked.

"Find the thickest lens you can find," he replied. "He's all but blind."

I knew the pair. Earlier, as I was organizing the glasses, I had come across a pair of lenses so thick I was certain they were bulletproof. I retrieved them and placed them on the little man's face. I soon learned that he had not just one eye, but also just one tooth as a broad smile blanketed his face. "!Puedo ver!" he exclaimed. I can see!

It was my daughter's job to tend the children as the doctors treated their parents. Indelibly etched in my mind is a sweet mental picture of my daughter as I looked out to see her running and screaming in mock terror from a throng of bare-chested little boys, who were laughing so hard they would occasionally fall to the ground holding their stomachs.

As we left the village, the children gathered around her and she hugged each of them. We sat together in the back of the bus, and she grew very quiet. After a few minutes I asked her what she had learned from this experience. She thought about it a moment, then said, "We love those whom we serve."

We moved on by boat up the muddy Rio Madre de Dios past the camps of the illicit gold miners scarring the forest with their bulldozers and sluices, eventually coming to a small clearing in the jungle. An airfield. Boarding a cargo plane, we flew south to Cuzco, where we took buses up into the Andes Mountains to a rundown hacienda.

The hacienda had been magnificent once, with elaborate tiles and intricate woodwork. It had a stone courtyard, a balcony and a bell tower. But the opulence of centuries ago was gone now, and what remained, rotting and looted, provided barely adequate shelter for the orphan boys it now housed. The place was called El Girasol -- the Sunflower -- and it was in the business of saving street children.

Among all the people we encountered in this mystical land, it was here that we met the most memorable: an American by the name of Paul Cook.

I was told by one of our guides that Paul Cook had once been a successful emergency room physician. Up until one Christmas Day when everything changed.

One night, after we had completed our day's tasks, we sat around a fire recounting the day's events as darkness closed in around us. Gradually our group retired to their sleeping quarters and I found myself alone with this quiet, intriguing man. We talked mostly about America; about the NBA, current movies, the Oscars and whom I thought would win the next presidential election. When I had satisfied his curiosity about current events, I asked him what prompted him to come to Peru. He just stared into the fire. Then he said, without looking at me, "That's a long story."

"No clocks in the jungle," I said.

Still gazing into the fire, he smiled at the use of one of his own favorite phrases. After a moment he said, "I'll show you."

He led me through the labyrinth of the hacienda to a small windowless cell with a wooden floor and a high ceiling. The room was as austere as any I had seen in the orphanage and was lit by a single lightbulb hanging from a cord from the exposed rafters. There were a few simple pieces of furniture: a small tin washbasin, a crate for a desk with a wooden chair and a bed that was just a mattress on box springs set on wooden blocks.

And there were books. Lots of books, visibly well-read and stacked in sloppy piles against the wall. I scanned the titles. Classics and bestsellers, Reader's Digest compilations, medical journals and crossword puzzles, biographies and thrillers. Books in Spanish as well as English. There were a few love stories.

On the wall above the books were two framed photographs: one of an elderly couple I guessed to be his parents, the other of a beautiful young woman whom I was to learn was named Christine. The most peculiar adornment to the room was a movie poster: a moody, black and indigo poster of a man kissing a woman beneath a title written in Italian: Cinema Paradiso.

Paul let me take in the surroundings for a moment before motioning for me to sit on the bed. I noticed that he had something in his hand -- a hand-sewn leather pouch. He untied its drawstrings and took from it a small toy soldier and handed it to me. Then he sat down next to me and commenced his tale. An hour or so later, when he was done, he looked weary and spent and I could sense the walls rising again in his demeanor, as if maybe he feared that he had shared too much. He restored the soldier to its pouch, hanging it by its drawstrings to a nail on the wall.

I asked if I could share his story. He showed little interest in my request but said he would sleep on it, a reply I also understood as my dismissal. Three days later, just a few hours before we were to fly back to Lima, he agreed.

It's been said, Seek not your destiny for it is seeking you. Paul Cook's story reveals, as well as any I suppose, that this is true. It was equally true for a young woman named Christine, who went to the jungle looking for anything but love.

This is their story.

Copyright © 2005 by Richard Paul Evans

Meet the Author

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box. Each of his more than twenty-five novels has been a New York Times bestseller. There are more than twenty million copies of his books in print worldwide, translated into more than twenty-four languages. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Mothers Book Award, the Romantic Times Best Women’s Novel of the Year Award, the German Audience Gold Award for Romance, two Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Awards, the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children. You can learn more about Richard on Facebook at Facebook.com/RPEFans, or visit his website, RichardPaulEvans.com.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Salt Lake City, Utah
Date of Birth:
October 11, 1962
Place of Birth:
Salt Lake City, Utah
Education:
B.A., University of Utah, 1984

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Sunflower 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so excited when I heard The Sunflower was in the book stores. I went immediately and bought it and immediately read it. Then I was sorry it was over. I wanted the story to continue. So I purchased A Perfect Day. Also a great book, and so timely at Holiday time. Richard, you touch so many lives. Your words are so endearing and go deep into our hearts and minds. I guess I will have to start over with The Christmas Box and re-read all your books as I wait for the next new one. This is going to be a great literary year!! And I love your childrens books as well. I have bought The Light of Christmas for my 5 nieces for Christmas.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing... What a feel good story! I couldn't put it down, I read it in one night (of course I was up until 2 am) but it was so worth it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just one more book of Mr. Evans that changes hearts and lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Richard Paul Evans¿ new book The Sunflower is one of my top favorites. I personally have traveled to Peru and the description and imagery are right on. The story takes place in the Amazon jungle which makes the story incredibly romantic. It also helps that one of the main characters, Paul Cook, is a rugged humanitarian and exceptionally good looking. You know, the kind of man all of us women would like to meet in the jungle. I enjoyed the love story but it is not the reason why I liked the book. The Sunflower has a deeper side to it, like all of Evans¿ books. It is that of thousands of hopeless street children that don¿t know anything better than sleeping on a cold door step or eating scraps at every meal. This book inspired me to reach out and help. I recommend it to all!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Since I've recently returned from a village where our group helped set up a medical clinic, I enjoyed the humanitarian setting as compassion meets romance in the lush, Amazon jungle. In 'The Sunflower,' Evans again weaves some wonderfully insightful journal entries from our hero into the story, so his dedication to the children is as vivid as it is to getting the girl.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was fortunate enough to read ¿The Sunflower¿ by Richard Paul Evans and let me tell you that you will not want to miss out on reading Evans new book! I actually felt as though I was on the Peru expedition with Christine and Paul. Evans took me on a journey of love, love that captures your soul. Just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby as you read this novel! This is a book that you will want to pass on to all your friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read and The Sunflower is an actual place loved it
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
A good read about rebuilding when you lose hope, there is always someone there for you at the perfect time. Evans puts it all together. Paul In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancee broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancee are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and heartbreak, they must confront their deepest fears and, together, learn to trust and love again.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never been disappointed by a Richard Paul Evans book!
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Love
TammyK1 More than 1 year ago
A touching story that everyone needs to read. Made me feel so thankful to be where I am.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book that you should read, its about love, sacarfice, and friendship, a good overall read
DIANNEA More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time taking putting it down. If you are looking for a weekend read where you just curl up with a romantic book. This is the book I would recommend for you!
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