This article was last updated on the 4th July, 2015 by Patrick Carpen.
Although I had heard the expression “dear John letter” before while I was Guyana, I had never been handed the novel “Dear John” by Nicholas Sparks, nor taken the time to read it. I wondered what the expression really meant but never took the time to ask or otherwise investigate.
The expression I later learned originated sometime during the Second World War and is usually a letter from a soldier’s sweetheart informing him of the end of a romantic relationship.
It was during my time in Brazil, in the beautiful city of Campo Verde, Mato Grosso, that I had the honor of reading this novel: Dear John: A Diary of Passion. One of my students, Djennifer Andrade, brought it for me. She said it was one of her favorite novels, remarking with an expression of awe and wonder “the love is so strong!”
I was curious to know more about this novel, having heard so much about the author, and the expression “dear John” having been adopted as a stock phrase into the mouths of so many people. But the novel the girl gave me was the Portuguese translation of the original English version, and it read like this:
Querida Joao: Uma Diaria do uma Paixou
I was not fluent in Portuguese at the time, but I could read and understand Portuguese novels pretty well.
Related: The Writings of Augustus Cury
I read the novel completely in about four sittings, and I must admit that I had a good time. I enjoyed reading it. In fact, I enjoyed reading most novels in Portuguese.
A synopsis of the novel is as follows.
A young soldier boy, the hero of the story, John, was on military training and living a promiscuous lifestyle, having sex (according to the novel) with a myriad of women. He eventually encountered and fell in love with a blonde girl, Savannah. This girl had a male best friend.
John and the young lady blazed a romantic trail until John went back to fight in Iraq. In Iraq, he received a letter from his love, which read “Dear John…”
The girl did not state directly, but implied that she no longer had a passion for John. And this implication was written between the lines. Nevertheless, John was smart enough to understand that there was someone else.
It turned out to be her best friend, Tim. John mentions “thoughts about the person who took her from me flew across my mind; and I must admit that they were not nice thoughts of what I would do if I met this person”.
When John returned to the US, he still couldn’t stop thinking about Savannah, even after many years. He summoned the courage to go over and meet her.
She found that her best friend turned lover now had cancer. She was desperately trying to save him, going to the hospital day after day and caring for him. She had set up a fund for people to donate money.
After many tense conversations, Savannah hinted on rekindling the relationship with John, but he refused. “I didn’t break up with her, she broke up with me.”
But to prove his love for the girl to himself, he sold his late dad’s entire coin collection and donated all the money, an enormous sum under “anonymous donor” to the girl’s husband fund.