The Notebook

by

Nicholas Sparks

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Noah Calhoun Character Analysis

Noah Calhoun is a spiritual, hardworking poet whose connection to nature, language, and the simpler things in life have carried him through years of loneliness as he pines for his lost love, Allie Nelson. The primary protagonist and narrator of the novel, Noah has lived a hard life. After losing his mother as a baby, Noah struggled with a stutter as a child. To cope with this, Noah’s father taught him to memorize poems by Walt Whitman and Alfred Tennyson. As a teenager in 1932, Noah meets Allie, a wealthy socialite, and has a passionate summer of love with her. He writes Allie for years after this, but she never responds. As an adult, Noah is still reeling from the ravages of the Great Depression and the trauma of fighting in World War II, during which he lost his childhood best friend, Fin, and his beloved employer, Morris Goldman. With money given to him by Goldman, Noah undertakes the renovation of a plantation house in his hometown of New Bern—and the article written about it in a local paper draws Allie to New Bern once again. Allie is the “ghost” Noah has been outrunning all his life—considered too poor to be a good match by Allie’s parents, Noah feels he and Allie never got a fair shot at being together. When Allie arrives in New Bern, Noah is shocked yet delighted. As they reconnect and fall in love again over a weekend, Noah shares his simple but passionate way of life with Allie—and he shows her just how deeply he respects her as a woman, an artist, and a soul. The older Noah, who narrates the beginning and ending of the novel, is a man in his eighties riddled with rheumatoid arthritis and facing down a battle with prostate cancer—yet his physical woes are dwarfed by the emotionally taxing reality that Allie, now his beloved wife of 49 years, has lost her memories to Alzheimer’s. The determined Noah refuses to lose faith in the power of love: every day he reads to Allie from the notebook containing their love story. Noah is the beating heart of The Notebook, and his steadfast belief in his and Allie’s destiny to be together gives Allie the confidence to choose passion over logic, love over resignation, and spiritual fulfillment over material wealth, creating a life and a family with Noah that both of them are proud of.

Noah Calhoun Quotes in The Notebook

The The Notebook quotes below are all either spoken by Noah Calhoun or refer to Noah Calhoun. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grand Central edition of The Notebook published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I am nothing special; of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

It would work out for him, he knew; it always did. Besides, thinking about money usually bored him. Early on, he'd learned to enjoy simple things, things that couldn't be bought, and he had a hard time understanding people who felt otherwise.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun, Allie Nelson
Related Symbols: Noah’s House
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

But he had been in love once, that he knew. Once and only once, and a long time ago. And it had changed him forever. Perfect love did that to a person, and this had been perfect.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun, Allie Nelson
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

"So that's the ghost you been running from." When asked what he meant, Gus said, "You know, the ghost, the memory. I been watchin' you, workin' day and night, slavin' so hard you barely have time to catch your breath. People do that for three reasons. Either they crazy, or stupid, or tryin' to forget. And with you, I knew you was tryin' to forget. I just didn't know what. […] This girl you been tellin' me about was your first love. And no matter what you do, she'll stay with you forever."

Related Characters: Gus (speaker), Noah Calhoun, Allie Nelson
Related Symbols: Noah’s House
Page Number: 14-16
Explanation and Analysis:

Most of the summer, [Allie] had to make excuses to her parents whenever they wanted to see each other. It wasn't that they didn't like [Noah]—it was that he was from a different class, too poor, and they would never approve if their daughter became serious with someone like him. "I don't care what my parents think, I love you and always will," she would say. "We'll find a way to be together."

Related Characters: Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

"You did a wonderful job restoring it. It looks perfect, just like I knew it would someday."

[Noah] turned his head in the same direction as hers while he wondered about the small talk and what she was holding back.

“Thanks, that's nice of you. It was quite a project, though. I don't know if I would do it again."

"Of course you would," she said. [Allie] knew exactly how he felt about this place.

Related Characters: Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun (speaker), Lon Hammond, Jr.
Related Symbols: Noah’s House
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

"When's the big day?"

"Three weeks from Saturday. Lon wanted a November wedding."

“Lon?"

"Lon Hammond Jr. My fiancé."

[Noah] nodded, not surprised. The Hammonds were one of the most powerful and influential families in the state. Cotton money. […] "With his name, he must be busy."

"He is. He works a lot."

He thought he heard something in her tone, and the next question came automatically.

"Does he treat you well?"

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson (speaker), Lon Hammond, Jr.
Page Number: 43-44
Explanation and Analysis:

"It's unbelievable, Noah. How long did the restoration take?"

He looked up from the last bag he was unpacking. "Almost a year."

"Did you do it yourself?"

[…] "I started that way. But it was just too much. It would have taken years, and so I ended up hiring some people . . . actually a lot of people. But even with them, it was still a lot of work, and most of the time I didn't stop until past midnight."

"Why'd you work so hard?"

Ghosts, he wanted to say, but didn't.

"I don't know. Just wanted to finish, I guess.”

Related Characters: Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun (speaker)
Related Symbols: Noah’s House
Page Number: 52-53
Explanation and Analysis:

"Do you remember sneaking over here the night you first told me about this place? […] I got home a little late that evening, and my parents were furious when I finally came in. […] My mother had a long talk with me later that night. She said to me, 'I'm sure you think that I don't understand what you're going through, but I do. It's just that sometimes, our future is dictated by what we are, as opposed to what we want.’ […] It was a terrible thing for a girl to learn. That status is more important than feelings."

Related Characters: Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun, Anne Nelson
Page Number: 58-59
Explanation and Analysis:

"Lon's handsome, charming, and successful, and most of my friends are insanely jealous. They think he's perfect, and in a lot of ways he is. "But there's always going to be something missing in our relationship." […]

"Why?"

[…] "I guess I still look for the kind of love we had that summer."

Related Characters: Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun (speaker), Lon Hammond, Jr.
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

"C'mon," he said, reaching for her hand, "I want to show you something."

She got up and followed him through the door to the living room. He stopped in front of the fireplace and pointed to the painting that hung above the mantel. […]

"You kept it?"

"Of course I kept it. […] It makes me feel alive when I look at it. Sometimes I have to get up and touch it. It's just so real—the shapes, the shadows, the colors. I even dream about it sometimes. It's incredible, Allie—I can stare at it for hours."

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson (speaker), Lon Hammond, Jr.
Related Symbols: Allie’s Paintings
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

"Poets often describe love as an emotion that we can't control, one that overwhelms logic and common sense. That's what it was like for me. I didn't plan on falling in love with you, and I doubt if you planned on falling in love with me. But once we met, it was clear that neither of us could control what was happening to us. We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created.”

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson
Related Symbols: Writing
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

Would Lon encourage her painting? She remembered showing him one of her paintings a couple of months after they had first started going out. It was an abstract painting and was meant to inspire thought. In a way, it resembled the painting above Noah's fireplace, the one Noah understood completely, though it may have been a touch less passionate. Lon had stared at it, studied it almost, and then had asked her what it was supposed to be. She hadn't bothered to answer.

Related Symbols: Allie’s Paintings
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

Though he wasn't Noah, Lon was a good man, the kind of man she'd always known she would marry. With Lon there would be no surprises, and there was comfort in knowing what the future would bring. He would be a kind husband to her, and she would be a good wife. She would have a home near friends and family, children, a respectable place in society. […] And though she wouldn't describe theirs as a passionate relationship, she had convinced herself long ago that this wasn't necessary… […] Passion would fade in time, and things like companionship and compatibility would take its place.

Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

"Noah, what are they doing here?"

"I don't know. I know the swans from up north migrate to Lake Mattamuskeet every winter, but I guess they came here this time. I don't know why. Maybe the early blizzard had something to do with it. Maybe they got off track or something. They'll find their way back, though."

"They won't stay?"

"I doubt it. They're driven by instinct, and this isn't their place."

Related Characters: Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun (speaker), Lon Hammond, Jr.
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be. Maybe we've lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we've found each other. And maybe each time, we've been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson
Related Symbols: Writing
Page Number: 121-122
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

'What are you going to do?" her mother asked, pulling back. There was a long pause.

"I don't know," Allie finally answered. They stood together for another minute, just holding each other. […]

On her way out the door, Allie thought that she heard her mother whisper, "Follow your heart," but she couldn't be sure.

Related Characters: Anne Nelson (speaker), Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun, Lon Hammond, Jr.
Related Symbols: Writing
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

"You can't live your life for other people. You've got to do what's right for you, even if it hurts some people you love."

"I know," she said, "but no matter what I choose I have to live with it. Forever. I have to be able to go forward and not look back anymore. Can you understand that?"

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

You and I were different. We came from different worlds, and yet you were the one who taught me the value of love. You showed me what it was like to care for another and I am a better man because of it. I don’t want you to ever forget that.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson, Anne Nelson
Related Symbols: Writing
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

"I've heard it before, haven't I?"

"Yes," I say again, just as I do every time on days like these. I have learned to be patient.

She studies my face. Her eyes are as green as ocean waves.

"It makes me feel less afraid," she says.

"I know." I nod, rocking my head softly.

Related Characters: Allie Nelson (speaker), Noah Calhoun (speaker)
Related Symbols: Writing
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

We are in the final minutes in the day of our lives, and the clock is ticking. Loudly. I wonder if I am the only one who can hear it.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

There is beauty where we sit this afternoon, Allie and I. This is the pinnacle of my life.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

This is why Allie is considered a miracle, because sometimes, just sometimes, after I read to her, her condition isn't so bad. There is no explanation for this.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson
Related Symbols: Writing
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

I open a drawer and find the flowers I'd once given her long ago, old and faded and tied together with ribbon. They, like me, are dry and brittle and difficult to handle without breaking. But she saved them. "I don't understand what you want with them," I would say, but she would just ignore me. And sometimes in the evenings I would see her holding them, almost reverently, as if they offered the secret of life itself.

Related Characters: Noah Calhoun (speaker), Allie Nelson
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
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Noah Calhoun Character Timeline in The Notebook

The timeline below shows where the character Noah Calhoun appears in The Notebook. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Miracles
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As the sun comes up on a frigid winter morning, 80-year-old Noah Calhoun sits bundled up in his room in the nursing home where he lives and... (full context)
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Noah has been ill for years—he feels worn out and deflated. This morning, however, he knows... (full context)
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As Noah arrives at his destination—the room of another patient—he greets the doctors and nurses tending to... (full context)
Chapter 2: Ghosts
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It is October of 1946. Noah Calhoun sits on the wrap-around porch of his plantation-style house in his hometown of New... (full context)
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Noah, tired but happy after a long day of work, reaches for his guitar and tunes... (full context)
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Noah continues reflecting on his life so far. After having left his hometown of New Bern... (full context)
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Just after high school graduation, at the start of the summer of 1932, Noah showed up to the local Neuse River Festival to find his childhood friends Fin and... (full context)
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Noah shakes himself from his reverie. He remembers talking to Gus about this girl recently. Gus... (full context)
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Noah, meanwhile, enjoys an unseasonably warm day of kayaking and working on the fencing around his... (full context)
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Noah continues thinking back over his relationship with Allie as he fishes. He remembers Fin predicting... (full context)
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Just a few months after Allie departed, Noah, too left New Bern—both to get her off his mind and to look for work.... (full context)
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In December of 1941, when Noah was 26, America entered World War II and Noah enlisted in the army. While in... (full context)
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Noah reels in his fishing line and heads up to the house. His neighbor Martha Shaw,... (full context)
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...at the house, she is taken aback by how dramatically different it looks. She spots Noah on the porch—he curiously steps off the verandah and walks toward her car. As Allie... (full context)
Chapter 3: Reunion
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Noah and Allie stand still looking at each other for so long that Allie begins to... (full context)
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Noah asks why Allie has come to New Bern. She finds herself swept up in old... (full context)
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Allie says how “crazy” it was for her to just show up, but Noah comforts her by telling her how pleased he is to see her. He suggests they... (full context)
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...of them begin catching up, and Allie quickly blurts out that she’s come to tell Noah she’s engaged to be married—and that the wedding is just three weeks away. When Allie... (full context)
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As Noah and Allie continue walking, they share memories of their summer together years ago and talk... (full context)
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Noah invites Allie to stay for dinner and offers to boil some crabs he’s caught in... (full context)
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As dark falls, Noah and Allie head back up to the house. While Noah starts on dinner Allie wanders... (full context)
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Allie compliments Noah on the renovation. He thanks her for her kind words and tells her about how... (full context)
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Allie helps Noah chop some vegetables for dinner. As Noah watches her, he smiles to himself—he has missed... (full context)
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Outside on the verandah, Allie and Noah reminisce some more about the summer they shared together. Allie recalls the night they snuck... (full context)
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Noah asks Allie why she never answered his letters. Allie appears confused—she says she never got... (full context)
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Noah asks Allie about Lon. Allie tells him that Lon is the perfect man in many... (full context)
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Noah comes back out and sits down. He asks Allie if she still paints, commenting on... (full context)
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Noah and Allie head into the kitchen to finish up the food and ready the table.... (full context)
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After dinner, Allie and Noah return to the porch. As Noah sets Allie up in a rocking chair with a... (full context)
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Allie finds herself growing tired. She tells Noah it’s time for her to get back to the hotel. He helps her out of... (full context)
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As Noah returns to his rocker, he replays the evening in his head over and over. As... (full context)
Chapter 5: Kayaks and Forgotten Dreams
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The next morning, Allie wakes early. Though she wore Noah’s shirt to bed, enveloped in its soft texture and comforting smell, she hasn’t slept well... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Noah is already up and on the water in his kayak, as he is almost every... (full context)
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...and paints a scene of the shops below—and then she completes a thoughtful sketch of Noah. Just before noon, she rolls the sketch up in her bag and heads out the... (full context)
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...out shopping. Feeling better, Allie goes out to her car and starts the drive to Noah’s. Minutes later, unbeknownst to Allie, Lon calls the hotel from the courthouse. (full context)
Chapter 6: Moving Water
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Allie pulls her car into Noah’s driveway. As she steps out, Noah finds that his feelings for her—and his attraction to... (full context)
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As Noah paddles the two of them out onto the river, Allie watches him row and finds... (full context)
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...descends upon the two of them once again, Allie finds herself grateful for the man Noah has become. She has seen men over the years destroyed by war, time, and even... (full context)
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...live. Allie has long told herself that while passion fades, companionship lasts forever—but now, with Noah, she questions her own logic. (full context)
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Noah guides the kayak toward some trees and navigates it around a large fallen trunk. He... (full context)
Chapter 7: Swans and Storms
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When Allie opens her eyes, she finds that she and Noah are sitting in the middle of a small lake. Their canoe is surrounded by thousands... (full context)
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Rain begins to fall. Though the drops are light at first, Noah and Allie are soon caught in an all-out downpour. Allie tilts her head back and... (full context)
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Up at the house, Noah fetches Allie some loose cotton pants and a shirt to change into. Allie goes up... (full context)
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As Noah sits on the rug beside Allie, he finds himself captivated by her and full of... (full context)
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Allie tells Noah that she became sad when she never got any letters from him. She reveals that... (full context)
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When Noah sits back down beside Allie, Allie confesses that she has never had sex with another... (full context)
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Noah and Allie have sex tenderly, slowly, and passionately. They spend the entire day in front... (full context)
Chapter 9: An Unexpected Visitor
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While Allie sleeps in the living room, Noah goes to the kitchen to make a hearty breakfast for them both. He brings it... (full context)
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Anne, Noah, and Allie sit together at the coffee table in the living room. Allie asks how... (full context)
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...she doesn’t know—but she encourages Allie to think long and hard about what she wants. Noah leaves the room to allow the two women to talk alone. After he is gone,... (full context)
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...her purse and retrieves a bundle of letters tied together with string—they are the letters Noah wrote to Allie. Anne has saved them all these years. Allie silently takes the letters,... (full context)
Chapter 10: Crossroads
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Noah walks Anne to the door and bids her goodbye. He knows that Allie needs to... (full context)
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What Allie wants, she says, is Noah—but she also wants a happy ending that doesn’t hurt anyone. Noah somewhat angrily tells Allie... (full context)
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Noah tells Allie that he already knows she won’t stay—even though she wants to. Allie, crying,... (full context)
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...to gather up her things. When she emerges from the house once again, she gives Noah the drawing she made of him back at the hotel. Noah appraises the drawing and... (full context)
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As Noah watches Allie’s car leave, he grows dizzy with disbelief. Though he wants to shout for... (full context)
Chapter 11: A Letter from Yesterday
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...to go inside—but before doing so, she decides to open one of the letters from Noah. She reaches into her purse for the yellowed packet of letter and pulls a letter... (full context)
Chapter 12: Winter for Two
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The story ended, the elderly Noah closes his notebook and removes his glasses from his tired eyes. He looks at the... (full context)
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Noah reads to his companion each and every morning without fail—it is something he must do... (full context)
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Noah knows that soon his life will be over—his pain grows every day while his capacity... (full context)
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Back in the present, Noah inches closer to his companion and sits in the chair beside her bed. He takes... (full context)
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The woman says she has another question for Noah, but she is afraid it will hurt his feelings. He tells her to ask away,... (full context)
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Noah and Allie have lived at the Creekside Extended Care Facility, a nursing home, for more... (full context)
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Noah and Allie have four living children—the fifth they lost as an infant. Their children often... (full context)
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Noah, still reeling from Allie’s question, replies that his name is Duke. Allie apologizes for not... (full context)
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Allie, Noah reveals, became a famous artist who was widely lauded as one of the most important... (full context)
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Noah never could have expected the turn his and Allie’s final years would take. When Allie... (full context)
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...instructions, and wrote letters to her friends, her children, her neighbors, and, of course, to Noah. When Noah reads Allie’s last letter to him, he is reminded of the many letters... (full context)
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Several nights ago, as Noah found himself sifting through these letters, he began reading the last letter he wrote to... (full context)
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In telling his children the story of their reunion, Noah fills in the blanks about what happened between Lon and Allie at the inn. When... (full context)
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Presently, Allie and Noah wander down to a small creek to watch some geese on the water. Allie asks... (full context)
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Noah explains that he is often purposefully vague in his answers to Allie, occasionally going so... (full context)
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As Allie and Noah walk back up to the main building at dusk, Allie playfully tells Noah that she... (full context)
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...she often refuses to eat. In spite of all the setbacks Alzheimer’s has brought, however, Noah insists that Allie is a “miracle.” Sometimes, after Noah reads the notebook to Allie, her... (full context)
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Noah leads Allie back to her room, where the nurses have set up a candlelit dinner... (full context)
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Comfort and Logic vs. Passion and Instinct  Theme Icon
Noah is thrilled, but he knows that Allie will not stay this way. Over the course... (full context)
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Sure enough, after dinner, as Allie and Noah hold each other, Allie begins to blink and shake her head, staring at the corner... (full context)
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Memory, Pain, and Mortality Theme Icon
Noah spends the rest of the evening alone in his room. Dr. Barnwell, who is making... (full context)
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Memory, Pain, and Mortality Theme Icon
The following week, after several frustrating days of being unable to get through to Allie, Noah wakes up one morning to look at some old photographs and letters. He finds he... (full context)
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Memory, Pain, and Mortality Theme Icon
Noah swims in and out of consciousness for days. When he is awake, he is aware... (full context)
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Memory, Pain, and Mortality Theme Icon
Two weeks later, Noah is able to leave the hospital. The right side of his body has been weakened,... (full context)
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Comfort and Logic vs. Passion and Instinct  Theme Icon
It is nearly midnight when Noah sits down with the last letter Allie wrote to him before her mind began to... (full context)
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At the end of the letter, Allie writes that while Noah might think she’s “crazy” for writing down their entire love story in the notebook, she... (full context)
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Comfort and Logic vs. Passion and Instinct  Theme Icon
Noah puts the letter aside and goes out to the hall. He sees that the night... (full context)
Love and Destiny Theme Icon
Memory, Pain, and Mortality Theme Icon
Comfort and Logic vs. Passion and Instinct  Theme Icon
Noah slowly walks down the hall toward Allie’s room, feeling stronger and more powerful with each... (full context)