I'm a sci-fi writer and reader, although, let's be honest - I'll read just about anything that moves me, regardless of the genre.
I'd seen this movie a few years back and figured that the book was probably worth a read. When I finally ran across a copy of this in a thrift store, I picked it up.
Over all the book was a quick read. I knew what was going to happen, and the story didn't differ too much from the movie, from what I can remember (other than the very end, which I think they did better in the movie).
What I liked: I loved Spark's ability to capture the south. The house and the trees, the rocking chairs on the porch and a deluge of rain. I have a penchant for books set in the south (read Flannery O' Connor's complete works if you too have this love.) Sparks got the setting right. He transported me to the 1940's south. I could feel a light sundress on my skin and smell the okra. I felt the humidity in my hair.
What I wasn't so much a fan of: Maybe it's because I saw the movie first, but I wasn't as enamored with the characters as I expected to be. I really expected to be inside their heads and to truly understand them. It wasn't that I walked away from this thinking I didn't get them, but I think I went into the story with a really high bar. I expected to be able to blink from their eyes, and it just didn't happen. The book isn't super long (a good thing, IMO) but as a result I just didn't get to know the characters on the level I expected.
The parallel story of the nursing home, while difficult at first to adjust to, I think in the end makes the story stronger, and I do wish that Sparks had used the ending the movie used, but it is what it is.
If you're looking for a quick read, or a read that immerses you in another time and place, I recommend this book.