The story is about a romantic couple who fall in love over one summer. They are separated during the man's military service. John Tyree, the main character, has a father with Asperger's syndrome. The story is partially set in Wilmington, North Carolina where John's father was a single parent who had difficulty having meaningful conversation with his son and has an obsession with coin collecting. John knows there is something wrong with him but he has never been to a doctor to find out what it is. Feeling a lack of direction and no good fatherly influence in his life, John enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces.
John returns home on leave from the army when he gets news of his father's death. After the return he seeks out Savannah, where he is surprised to learn of her life events following her marriage to another man. It was obvious to John, Savannah, and even her new husband, that Savannah still had love for John. But he decided to let Savannah go- because he cared about her more than himself. Although drained by battle overseas and the loss of Savannah, he realizes that due to a legacy from his father, he's able to express his love in an unexpected way.