Literature: Safe Haven

Safe Haven is a 2010 novel by Nicholas Sparks about a young woman named Katie who escapes her abusive ex-husband, Kevin, and relocates to a small North Carolina town, where she falls for Alex, a widowed father with two children. Trouble ensues as Kevin finds her there and plans on killing the two new lovebirds.

The book was made into a movie in 2013, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel.

The novel and the film contain the following tropes:

  • Abomination Accusation Attack: In a terrifying example, Kevin abuses his authority as a cop to declare Katie a suspect in first-degree murder, and send out a nationwide alert to police everywhere. When this is discovered, Kevin's boss immediately rips into him and suspends him from the force.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Slightly. In the book, Katie spends weeks, if not months, planning her escape from Kevin, making sure to consider every factor—money, location, time, etc., then spends several weeks on the run before settling in Southport. In the movie, she flees from him impulsively following yet another argument and immediately heads to Southport.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job/Dye or Die/Important Haircut: Katie cuts and dyes her hair in order to disguise her appearance when she flees from Kevin. However, in the book, she goes from blonde to brunette, while in the movie, it's the opposite.
  • The Alcoholic: Kevin.
  • Always with You:
  • Attack of the Town Festival: Kevin stalks Katie through Southport's Fourth of July celebration.
  • Bait and Switch: The movie opens with Katie fleeing a house, then fleeing town on a bus, just barely evading Kevin. Her new life in Southport is intercut with scenes of Kevin searching for her and sending out "Wanted" posters identifying her as a murder suspect, and she frequently looks uneasy whenever she spots police officers. All this implies that Katie is a killer and that Kevin is simply a cop doing his job trying to find her. Until Kevin's supervisor blasts him for his actions, revealing that Katie is Kevin's abused wife and that's why she's on the run.
  • Caught in the Rain: But of course. It's a Nicholas Sparks movie, isn't it?
  • Chekhov's Skill: A villainous version. Kevin uses his police skills and contacts to track Katie in both mediums—in the movie, it's to make up wanted posters with her picture, while in the book, it's to deduce that she couldn't have gotten very far because she didn't have much money, thus allowing him to track her down in Philadelphia. As well, since she could have only found work as a waitress, he resolves to stake out every restaurant in town until she shows up at one, and sure enough, she does. He finds her in Southport much the same way.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy/Genre Savvy: Katie's escape plan is described in great detail in the book, as well as the measures she takes to avoid detection—quitting jobs after only a few weeks, moving from one motel to another—knowing that between Kevin's personality and his profession, it's only a matter of time before he finds her. Her vigilance pays off when she spots an unfamiliar car on the street while walking to work and instantly—and correctly—suspects it's his. Kevin as well, cited above.
  • Dead All Along: One of the minor characters, Jo is actually this.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In the book. Katie steals the social security number of the late daughter of her neighbor, knowing that she'll need a new identity to make a life somewhere else. Unfortunately, the minute she uses it to apply for a driver's license, Kevin discovers where she is.
  • Domestic Abuse: A significant theme in both works.
  • Due to the Dead: Josh to his mom.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted in the book, where it's described that it took nearly a year of saving for Katie to have the money to run away, after which she had to stay in cheap motels, barely eat and save every penny in order to get by. Played straight in the movie, where despite fleeing Kevin on the spur of the moment (rather than the long planning it took in the book), Katie has the funds for a bus ticket and to rent and fix up a cottage.
  • The Ghost: In line with Dead All Along above and played straight, without suggestions of it being all in character's heads. It's Jo
  • Hypocrite: Kevin, in the novel, given his near constant Bible-quoting, all while he's an abusive husband.
  • Kill It with Fire: The house is set on fire with gasoline from the jerry can.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Alex tells Katie to leave town and never return, he has one of these. Kevin of all people has one in the novel, acknowledging that Katie left him because she was fed up with the abuse. He flip-flops between genuine remorse and wanting to atone to wanting to kill her.
  • Race for Your Love: A villainous version when Kevin races to the bus station to catch Katie before she can leave, and a typical one when Alex races to the ferry to stop her from doing the same thing.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When the police chief realizes that Kevin has illegally declared Katie as a murder suspect, he immediately calls Kevin out and suspends him.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: In the novel, at least. Kevin is able to track Katie down when he shows her picture at the bus station and both the ticket agent and bus driver remember her because she was so pretty.
  • Scenery Porn: Southport, North Carolina is gorgeous
  • Shout-Out: There are many, possibly unintentional similarities between this film and Sleeping With The Enemy—namely the opening sequence of an abused wife fleeing her abusive husband on a bus in the middle of a rainstorm, having cut her hair to disguise her appearance and said husband eventually finding her in a picturesque small town, then stalking her through a local celebration. Even earlier, a scene where Kevin slaps Katie as she's preparing dinner, then almost immediately consoles her with sex, which she cringes through both because she's in pain and because she basically hates him by this point is also very similar to one in the former film.
    • Katie and Alex taking a rowboat through the woods and having to cut their outing short because it begins raining is virtually identical to Noah and Allie's scene in The Notebook.
  • Spirit Advisor: Jo's ghost in question serves in this role.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: When Alex thinks Katie is a murderer and confronts her about it, she doesn't attempt to explain herself and instead decides to run away from town, declaring she does not blame him for hating her.
  • Villainous BSOD: Kevin steadily breaks down over the course of the story.
  • Wham Shot: The picture of Alex's wife.