Megan Harlan
April 24, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Imagine a soggy literary rip-off of Sleepless in Seattle in which Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are replaced by mirthless pod people who fall in love, then pursue an interminable long-distance relationship. In Sparks’ tale, Message in a Bottle, already a movie in the making, divorced newspaper columnist Theresa Osborne discovers a bottle washed ashore on a Cape Cod beach that contains a scrawled message from bereft Garrett to his deceased wife. Moved by the letter’s ”touching sentiments,” Theresa tracks down Garrett with the aid of her Rosie O’Donnell-like boss and stalks him into a relationship. Ultimately, it’s Sparks’ leaden, platitudinous prose that sinks this story. D

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