Until reading Nicholas Sparks’ website it never even occurred to me that the question needed answering. Of course she died. She was going down hill fast and all of the characters had accepted the outcome.
But there appears to be a large reader base who believe that the final line in the book: “. . . there’s one thing I still haven’t told you. I now believe, by the way, that miracles can happen.” was meant to indicate otherwise.
Re-reading the book and noticing all of the times that Sparks refers to praying for a miracle, I understand where this comes from. I never saw it because I was slanted by seeing the movie first. The ‘miracle’ in the movie was Landon’s redemption and I assumed it was something similar in the book. But that may not have been the author’s intent.
Here is how Nicholas Sparks addresses it:
As I mentioned in the notes, this is the most frequently asked question I receive through the mail. As far as I can tell, about 70% of the people think Jamie passed away, another 30% believe she lived, and when asking the question, they offer “proof” for their reasoning.
Who once said that good books inspire debate?
There are a number of things that I have to explain before I get into the answer so you can understand my reasoning. Part of it goes back to Message in a Bottle. [Sparks killed a main character in the end]. In a nutshell, while many readers loved the ending of that novel, a great many were furious with me for it. Really furious. This was on my mind while writing [A Walk To Remember], and part of me thought that if I killed off another major character, my readers would never forgive me.
Nonetheless, when I started the novel, I knew that Jamie was going to die. Every page, every scene, every chapter was written with that idea and it continued to proceed that way right up until the end of the novel, when the time came to write those words.
And strangely, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t.
Why? Because by that time, I’d grown to love Jamie Sullivan. I marveled at her strength and faith, and I was proud of everything for which she stood. And I didn’t want her to die.
So I found myself in a dilemma.
Also, keep in mind that the story was also inspired by my sister, who was very much alive as I neared the end of the novel. Since it was inspired by her, I began to think, and she was alive. . .
I remember leaning back in my chair and absently scratching my chin, wondering what to do. Because of the story, because of all that I had written with her death in mind, because she was growing weaker and weaker throughout the story, it would have been dishonest (and frankly, very manipulative), to have Jamie suddenly cured. I could imagine some readers reaching the end and thinking, If that was the case, why the big build-up with her sickness? Others might close the book and think the entire novel was believable up until that point. I didn’t want either of those impressions of the novel.
So what was I to do? I didn’t want her to die, and couldn’t write those words. Yet, I plainly couldn’t let her live, either. I opted for the only solution, the solution that best described the exact feeling I had with regard to my sister at that point: namely, that I hoped she would live.
That’s the ending, folks. I wanted readers to finish with the hope that Jamie lived.
As to whether she actually lived or died, it’s ambiguous and purposely meant to be that way. If you wanted Jamie to live, she lived. If you knew that Jamie would die, she died.
As for me, (and I’m not the final say — I wrote the characters, but reader’s know them just as well as I do), I thought there was a good chance that Jamie lived.
At least, I hoped so.
There it is. The final word on the subject.