Book vs. Movie

What are the differences?

Fire Scene

In the novel, this entire scene was completely different than it was in the film. As the final encounter of Erin and Kevin escalates at the end of the novel, Katie is babysitting both Josh and Kristen while Alex is picking up his friend and her daughter who needed a ride from the airport hours away. In the film, Katie is only with Lexi (Kristen) while watching Alex and Josh on the dock shooting up fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July.

Although the settings were set up completely different so that they cannot really be compared, I think that the novel did a lot better in grasping how dangerous and close to death that Katie and the kids were. In the novel, Katie wakes up to Jo, the angel, waking her up in her dream to tell her that Kevin is there and has set the house on fire, while in the movie, Katie sees him pouring gasoline on the house and a firework is what sets the house on fire. Also, the book better portrays how deeply that Katie feels for Josh and Kristen as she jumps out of the top floor pulling them on top of her to protect them. After Katie jumps, Kevin beats Katie until she can hardly move while in the film, Alex is easily knocked out with a crowbar which takes away from the symbol of a "safe haven" that Alex represented throughout the movie.

Katie's Personality

Throughout the entire novel, Katie is very quiet. She never takes up for herself, and when she gets a weird feeling, she runs because she is scared that someone knows too much about her. It takes forever for Katie to tell anyone about what happened to her with Kevin, but she eventually tells Jo and Alex to show how much she trusts them, but many times, she regrets it. In the book, she avoids any small talk because she doesn't want anyone to know anything about her.

In the movie, Katie is different. She is much more outgoing and less paranoid about everyone else. She makes a lot of friendships that she didn't make in the novel. Especially towards the end of the novel, she shows her true identity as she stands up in front of Kevin not letting herself fall back into his trap nor fall into being vulnerable out of fear of what he could do. As she starts to spend more time with Alex and his kids, in the novel, it seems as though she only spends time with them because of Kristen and Josh, while in the movie, she is more into Alex. The movie didn't really grasp the fear and vulnerability that consumed Katie's personality as she moves to Southport.

Alex and Katie's Relationship

This was probably the most significant difference between the book and the movie. As Katie's vulnerability was better portrayed throughout the novel, the novel showed all of the time and effort that Alex went through to even get Katie to notice him. Alex fell in love with her the first moment that he saw her, but he didn't act upon this love until months after she became a regular in his store, and the first time that they had a conversation was when Katie screamed and held Katie in her arms as Alex saved Josh from falling in the water. Also, when Alex gives Katie the bike, in the novel, Katie is a lot more shy about the whole thing and more thankful than in the movie.

In the movie, Katie is extremely rude to Alex as she gives him back the bike, but her feelings for Alex become more prominent and quickly than they form in the novel. In the novel, it takes many long talks and separate occasions for her to finally admit to herself that she is interested in Alex, and because Alex was a retired soldier, he was already aware that Katie had been in a previous abusive marriage because of the way she acted and in little things that she did. Therefore, in the novel, he is understanding of everything she does while the way he finds out about her in the movie is seeing a wanted poster of her for first degree murder, so he confronts her for lying about her "false identity". In my opinion, that whole scene in the movie takes away from Alex's whole character of being understanding of everything that had happened to her because it just builds a meaningless lie that hinders Alex and Katie's relationship.

Kevin and Erin's Relationship

The entire first part of the book takes place during Kevin and Erin's marriage as each and every day, Erin explains the struggles that she goes through with Kevin. Since Kevin is a police officer and murder investigator, he thinks of everything before she does. Erin explains how everyday, Kevin drives by their house to make sure she has not left, he calls the home phone every 30 minutes, he makes her cook and clean everything for him, he takes her everywhere, does not allow her to make friends, have a phone, nor have a license, and he never takes her somewhere more than a couple of times because he doesn't want her to be a regular at any store or place. Each night, he comes home and drinks a bottle of vodka until passing out only after beating her and making her please him sexually in every way that he wants. He controls every part of Katie's life, and she is scared to death of him because of how badly he has hurt her in the past and put her to gunpoint before.

The movie starts with Erin running away, so it fails to show just how big of a deal it was that she was able to get as far away as she did. Viewers weren't able to see and feel just how big of a predicament that Erin was in while married to Kevin especially since things were only starting to get worse. She really thought that she would die if she stayed any longer with him. Even at the end of the novel, Kevin is projected to be scarier than he was shown in the film. In the film, he just seemed really drunk while in the novel, he had complete recollection of what he was doing. Also, the novel made it seem as though Kevin really had problems because he made many biblical references to justify the things he were doing contrary to what others were doing. Multiple times, he expressed how deeply he loved and missed Erin, and then he would contradict those feeling with the joy he would have at the thought of ripping Erin's throat out.

Erin's Escape and New Identity

The movie starts with Erin running for her life after cutting Kevin with the glass from their table that Erin was thrown across. Erin runs to the Feldmans to help her, and there, Mrs. Feldman cuts her hair and dies it blonde. They giver her their deceased daughter's identity and social security number which is how she gets the name of "Katie". From there, they give her money and help her to get as far away as she can from them with their full support as they have become very close to her.

The novel is very different in this aspect because Erin's escape is completely independent within the novel as for months, Erin has been plotting an escape for whenever Kevin expects it the least. She has spent countless days and months saving up enough money to get out of town, and since Kevin controls everything she does, she has saved this money from the times that he has passed out on the couch with his wallet, and she has taken a dollar or two at most so that he wouldn't notice it gone. She plans and plots everything her entire escape not involving the Feldmans at all. She leaves when Kevin goes out of town for two days on work. She goes to China Town living on the streets for days not eating, and he finds her there where she sees him before he sees her and she eventually flees to Southport. This is not how the movie is at all, however, because in the movie, she escapes directly to Southport. Again, the movie fails to grasp just how scary her escape was and how close she was to being caught and the reasons for her relentless fear of Kevin finding her.

Erin's "Rescue"

As Kevin frantically searches for Erin high and low, he becomes extremely suspicious of the Feldmans, their neighbors, as they seem to have something to do with Erin's disappearance. For months upon months, he becomes more attached to finding around and drinking and less attached to his work. He gets suspended from his job after hacking onto the national system for wanted murderers, but once he verifies this suspicion of the Feldmans seeing a letter from Erin in their mailbox, he sneaks into their house in the middle of the night to listen to their voicemail seeing the number and area code that she had called from. From this point, he drives days to Southport to find her and to kill her.

This is completely different in the book as the novel explains the months of suffering that he rightfully endures from the loss of Erin. He does get suspended but for being drunk on the job, and he does not nationally publicize the lie that Erin is wanted for first degree murder, and he finds out about Erin's whereabouts differently as well. In the novel, he is sitting on his patio drinking watching people gathering at the Feldman household for Mr. Feldman's funeral. As he is sitting there, their other daughter comes up to him asking where Erin was because she wanted to thank her for everything she did for their family. She goes on to explain to Kevin that Mr. Feldman always looked at Erin like their first daughter, Katie, who had died of cancer. A lightbulb sparks in Kevin's head as he realizes that the hope he needs to find Erin may lie within their household. As they all leave for the funeral, he sneaks in finding Katie's social security number and tracing her to Southport. I don't think that the way the movie portrayed this scene was as effective as the novel just because it was so sporadic and it showed how desperate Kevin was for finding any information on Erin.

Safe Haven Official Trailer


My personal opinion towards the novel and the film is that the the film missed many significant details about how Katie truly was, her relationships with the other characters, and details within significant scenes such as when Kevin finds out where Katie is and the fire scene. Although, I loved the movie, and I can definitely say that I will be watching that movie many times again, I am partial to the book because I love the way Nicholas Sparks builds up the plot of the story. The way he develops the Katie and Alex's relationship from Kevin and Erin's relationship is not captured in the movie. Others agree who have both read and watched the movie, but I think that for all of Nicholas Spark's books, the movies and the novels are extremely good and well-liked separately.