The Sunflower

The Sunflower

by Richard Paul Evans


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“It has been said, ‘Seek not your destiny for it is seeking you.’” So begins this new and powerful novel from Richard Paul Evans, #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box, The Walk series, and more.

In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancé broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancée are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and heartbreak, they must confront their deepest fears and, together, learn to trust and love again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743287029
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 06/19/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 220,661
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box. Each of his more than thirty-five novels has been a New York Times bestseller. There are more than thirty-five million copies of his books in print worldwide, translated into more than twenty-four languages. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Mothers Book Award, the Romantic Times Best Women’s Novel of the Year Award, the German Audience Gold Award for Romance, five Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Awards, the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award, and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children. You can learn more about Richard on Facebook at, or visit his website,


Salt Lake City, Utah

Date of Birth:

October 11, 1962

Place of Birth:

Salt Lake City, Utah


B.A., University of Utah, 1984

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Going to the jungle wasn't my idea. Had the thought actually crossed my mind, I would have immediately relegated it to that crowded portion of my brain where things I should do someday but thankfully never will are safely locked away to languish and die.

The idea was my daughter McKenna's. Three months before she graduated from high school, her sociology teacher, a graying, long-haired Haight-Ashbury throwback who had traded in his tie-dye T-shirts for tweed jackets with leather elbow patches presented to his class the opportunity to go to South America on a humanitarian mission. McKenna became obsessed with the idea and asked if I would accompany her on such an excursion -- kind of a daddy-daughter date in the Amazon.

I agreed. Not that I had any real desire or intention of going. I figured that she would soon graduate and her mind would be occupied with other concerns. I never believed it would really come about.

I should have known my daughter better. Four months later I found myself standing with her and a dozen of her former classmates in the Salt Lake City airport boarding a plane for Lima, Peru.

Unbeknownst to our little group, we had entrusted our lives to novices. We were the first group our expeditionary guides had actually led into the Amazon -- a fact we discovered twenty-four hours later deep in a jungle teeming with anacondas, jaguars and hand-sized spiders. Several times in the course of our expedition, our guide, an elderly Peruvian man, would suddenly stop, lay his machete at the foot of a tree, then climb above the jungle canopy for a look, each time descending with a somewhat perplexed expression.

After our third complete change of course I asked our guide (as tactfully as one being led through a jungle must) if he knew where he was going. In broken English the old man replied, "Yes, I have been here before..." then added, "when I was six."

During our hike we came upon the village of an Amazonian tribe, the Los Palmos. Overjoyed to learn that they were neither cannibals nor headhunters, we soon noticed that the population of the village included no young men, only women and the elderly. Our guide asked one of the natives where all the young men had gone.

"They have gone to town to kill the mayor," she replied.

"Why?" our guide asked.

"The mayor has said we can no longer cut the rainforest trees. We cannot live without the wood from the trees. So our men have gone to kill him."

"Do you think that's a good idea?" our guide asked.

The woman shrugged. "Probably not, but it's how things are done in the jungle."

There was something refreshing about her logic. I've never been overly fond of politics, and the image of painted tribesmen carrying spears and bows into town hall delighted me -- certainly something we don't see enough of in Salt Lake City. I still wonder how that all turned out.

Two days into our journey we ran out of food. For several days we lived on jungle fruit and the piranhas we caught in the river. (Piranha doesn't taste that bad -- kind of like chicken.)

I remember, as a boy, sitting spellbound through a Saturday afternoon matinee about a school of piranhas that terrorized a small jungle village. These Hollywood piranhas swam in conveniently slow-moving schools that cinematically frothed and bubbled on the surface, allowing the hero a chance to swim across the river and rescue a woman just inches ahead of the churning piranha death.

The piranhas we encountered in the jungle were nothing like that. First, Amazon piranhas are nearly as...

Reading Group Guide

Group Reading Guide
The Sunflower
Richard Paul Evans

Discussion Questions

  1. Sunflowers appear throughout the story, from the name of the orphanage (El Girasol) to Christine's wedding decorations to symbols found in the ancient Temple of the Sun in Machu Picchu. What does the image of the sunflower represent? What does it mean to Christine in particular?
  2. When Martin tells Christine he no longer wants to get married, she asks him what she did wrong. Why is Christine so quick to blame herself? What did she see in Martin, a man she dated for six years and almost married? How is Paul, to whom Christine is immediately attracted from their first encounter outside the hotel in Cuzco, most different from Martin?
  3. Christine and Jessica are "proof that opposites attract . . . and both women, in their own ways, envied the other" (35). How would you describe each woman? What do Jessica and Christine each bring to — and get out of — their friendship?
  4. After Martin calls off the wedding, Jessica says to Christine, "He'll come to his senses eventually. . . . The only question is whether you'll be dumb enough to take him when he comes crawling back" (46). Yet later in the story Jessica tells Paul that Martin is Christine's "happy ending" (302). Does Jessica really mean what she tells Paul, or is she trying to prevent Christine from making what she believes is a mistake? Does Jessica have a more selfish motive for not wanting Christine to marry Paul?
  5. Paul successfully weathered the simultaneous lawsuits brought against him by the families of two patients who died in the ER under his care. Why then did he give up his career as a doctor and leave the United States to travel around South America? What draws him to El Girasol and then compels him to stay on as director of the orphanage?
  6. How does the three-day period Christine and Paul spend together at the orphanage lay the foundation for their relationship? When Christine leaves the orphanage with the tour group, she writes the following in a note to Paul: "You helped me in ways you will probably never know" (155). Describe the ways in which Paul helped her and how these were significant to Christine's development.
  7. Why does Paul share the story of his mother, who is dying from ALS, with Christine? When Christine returns to the orphanage at the end of the story, why does she repeat to Paul the phrase ("Love is stronger than pain") that he used when telling her about his parents? How does this sentiment apply to their situation?
  8. When Christine becomes sick with dengue fever, she's in a remote area of Peru with only Paul to care for her. How is this incident a turning point for Christine both personally and in terms of her relationship with Paul? What does Paul come to realize about himself and his feelings for Christine as he sees her through this illness?
  9. Describe Christine's transformation from the beginning of the story to the end. In what significant ways does she change? When Christine and Paul leave Makisapa Lodge after she recovers from her illness, the walk through the jungle no longer frightens her. "She knew she was not the same woman who had marched into the jungle the week before" (283). Why is Christine not afraid this time?
  10. On their last night together in Peru, Paul asks Christine to marry him. What prompts him to propose — and Christine to accept — after knowing each other for such a short time? What is Christine's response when she learns that Martin is waiting for her in Lima? During her reunion with Martin, what does Christine conclude about her former fiancé? Why does she return to the United States with Martin?
  11. In the Epilogue, the narrator who began the story reveals that Paul and Christine have married and settled in a Dayton suburb with Pablo and Roxana. What was your reaction to finding out that Paul chose not to continue running the orphanage? What purpose does the narrator serve?
  12. When Paul learns that he is to see Christine again as a result of Jim's accident, he writes in his diary, "Fate has a way of cutting corners" (195). Do you believe in fate? What role, if any, does it play in this story? If not for Jim's accident, do you think they would have seen each other again? If so, which character do you think would have been more likely to take the initiative?
  13. What is the central theme of The Sunflower? What aspects of the book did you find especially memorable or inspiring? Discuss the humanitarian mission in The Sunflower. What were the success and failures? What did you learn?

Enhance Your Book Club
  1. If you're hosting the discussion, incorporate a sunflower theme into the meeting. Brighten up the room with a bouquet of sunflowers. Serve a sunflower-inspired recipe from the National Sunflower Association (, such as Artichoke Sunflower Dip, Acorn Squash with Caramelized Sunflower Kernels, or Spinach & Sunflower Salad with Orange Vinaigrette. End on a sweet note by giving each member a foil-wrapped chocolate sunflower medallion, which can be purchased at
  2. Take your book club on the road for a volunteer mission — an outing in your town, a weekend trip, or even a journey to a foreign locale as Christine and Jessica undertake in The Sunflower. Find out more about humanitarian vacations at the following websites:
    Be sure to keep a scrapbook of your group's experiences!
  3. Research the Peruvian locations featured in the book — Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Lima, Ollantaytambo, and the jungle of the Amazon — and discuss how the setting enhances the story. Visit for photographs and video commentary from the author about his adventures in Peru.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Sunflower 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so excited when I heard The Sunflower was in the book stores. I went immediately and bought it and immediately read it. Then I was sorry it was over. I wanted the story to continue. So I purchased A Perfect Day. Also a great book, and so timely at Holiday time. Richard, you touch so many lives. Your words are so endearing and go deep into our hearts and minds. I guess I will have to start over with The Christmas Box and re-read all your books as I wait for the next new one. This is going to be a great literary year!! And I love your childrens books as well. I have bought The Light of Christmas for my 5 nieces for Christmas.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing... What a feel good story! I couldn't put it down, I read it in one night (of course I was up until 2 am) but it was so worth it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just one more book of Mr. Evans that changes hearts and lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Richard Paul Evans¿ new book The Sunflower is one of my top favorites. I personally have traveled to Peru and the description and imagery are right on. The story takes place in the Amazon jungle which makes the story incredibly romantic. It also helps that one of the main characters, Paul Cook, is a rugged humanitarian and exceptionally good looking. You know, the kind of man all of us women would like to meet in the jungle. I enjoyed the love story but it is not the reason why I liked the book. The Sunflower has a deeper side to it, like all of Evans¿ books. It is that of thousands of hopeless street children that don¿t know anything better than sleeping on a cold door step or eating scraps at every meal. This book inspired me to reach out and help. I recommend it to all!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Since I've recently returned from a village where our group helped set up a medical clinic, I enjoyed the humanitarian setting as compassion meets romance in the lush, Amazon jungle. In 'The Sunflower,' Evans again weaves some wonderfully insightful journal entries from our hero into the story, so his dedication to the children is as vivid as it is to getting the girl.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was fortunate enough to read ¿The Sunflower¿ by Richard Paul Evans and let me tell you that you will not want to miss out on reading Evans new book! I actually felt as though I was on the Peru expedition with Christine and Paul. Evans took me on a journey of love, love that captures your soul. Just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby as you read this novel! This is a book that you will want to pass on to all your friends.
CBJFAN23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best stories ever. Based on a true story!
Mzkitty570 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love reading this author. This book was very moving and deals with a woman whose fiance calls off the wedding. Her best friend enrolls them in a humanitarian mission to work at an orphanage. The people they meet and have to deal with is very eye opening and moving.
seasidereader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I stumbled into this appealing little tale before realizing it was essentially a romance -- a genre I avoid. The setting in rural Peru is what kept me reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read and The Sunflower is an actual place loved it
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
A good read about rebuilding when you lose hope, there is always someone there for you at the perfect time. Evans puts it all together. Paul In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancee broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancee are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and heartbreak, they must confront their deepest fears and, together, learn to trust and love again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never been disappointed by a Richard Paul Evans book!
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TammyK1 More than 1 year ago
A touching story that everyone needs to read. Made me feel so thankful to be where I am.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book that you should read, its about love, sacarfice, and friendship, a good overall read
DIANNEA More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time taking putting it down. If you are looking for a weekend read where you just curl up with a romantic book. This is the book I would recommend for you!
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