The role of Allie Nelson
Allie Nelson, the secondary protagonist and narrator of the novel, is a sensitive and romantic young woman who finds herself at a crossroads between passion and logic as she questions her choices and revisits her past love with
in the weeks before her wedding to
Lon Hammond, Jr.
Most of the narrative in the book switches between the perspectives of Noah and Ellie, allowing readers to gain insight into her thoughts and feelings when she reconnects with Noah in 1932. Although 14 years have passed since the summer at the beginning of the novel, Allie found herself being pulled back after reading an article about Noah’s expansion in New Bern, North Carolina
In Noah's memories, Ellie was determined to find him and personally told him about her engagement with the wealthy and powerful Raleigh lawyer Xiao Lang Hammond. When Ellie went to New Bern, she felt anxious and uncertain about what she was doing and where her life was going. But when she reunited with Noah and met him again, she became more confident in herself; her words and deeds were more romantic and instinctive; and more connected with carefree,
, spiritual young girl she once was. Despite Allie’s mother,
’s, resignations about Noah and Allie’s own internal conflict, she ultimately chooses to be with Noah instead of Lon—they’ve been married for 49 years in the novel’s frame story. Together, Noah and Allie have four children, and Noah supports Allie in her career as a renowned painter. Allie’s character arc ties in with all of the novel’s major themes: as a young woman she confronts ideas of love, destiny, and social class. In the frame story of the novel, the older Allie is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and is forced to reckon with the unhappy intersection of memory, pain, and mortality. Though the older Allie loses her memories of the love she and Noah once shared, it is ultimately revealed that she and Noah together composed a
containing the story of their romance—and when Noah reads it to Allie, she often returns to herself and enjoys fleeting moments in which her memories come back and guard her against the pain of her encroaching mortality. Introspective, sensual, amorous, and deeply intelligent, Allie’s journey demonstrates just how important passion, instinct, and a surrender to the power of love can be in the course of one’s life.
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